How To Increase Sales By Loving Your Customers – Véronique Özkaya From Argos Multilingual

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Her first year in sales she did $456,000. The next year – $4.5 million. What’s the secret to increasing your sales 10X? Meet Véronique Özkaya from Argos Multilingual, a seasoned leader driving the sales and marketing for high growth organizations.

This interview is a masterclass on sales and customer relationships. Why is a salesperson like an orchestra conductor? How do you change your organization’s mindset to be fully customer-centric? Learn in this episode where we also discussed:

  • What are the opportunities for localization companies during the crisis
  • The benefits of a focused approach to prospecting
  • What are the signs of commercial people
  • Differences between Moravia and Lionbridge
  • Do you need to have a talent for sales
  • Tips for hiring your first salesperson as a small company
  • Walking away from a sale
  • Why your customers don’t care about NMT
  • Marrying… Harvey Specter?!

This is episode 26 of my social interaction practice, also known as The Localization Podcast 🙂 #localization​ and #translation​ insight delivered to you by the power of voice, this time with Véronique Özkaya.


Andrej Zito 

All right, Véronique Özkaya, welcome to the podcast. Did I say your name correctly? I try to do the French accent-

Véronique Özkaya 

I think I think you’re progressing? You’re progressing eventually. Perfect.

Andrej Zito 

Where are you from? If you have this beautiful name?

Véronique Özkaya 

I am French native. My my father is French My mother is half Belgian half Dutch. And my surname is Turkish

Andrej Zito 

A combination. Are you- when you say French? Is it? Do you mean France? Or is it possibly

Véronique Özkaya 

So I was born- No, I was born in north of France. I was born in north of France. And then my family moved around. So a couple of places in France and then Ireland and then West Indies. And then Eastern Europe, as you know, for a while as well.

Andrej Zito 

I prefer to say Central Europe. I don’t like when people associate Czech Republic and Slovakia with Eastern Europe. Because like that’s our history. So I prefer to say Central, because actually I think Slovakia is right in the heart of Europe. That’s what I remember from my studies when I was young kid.

Véronique Özkaya 

Geography lesson. Yes,

Andrej Zito 

Yes. I think I remember. So I have so many questions about sales, because you’re the first salesperson that I’m going to interview and maybe the first salesperson ever that I’m going to like. Yeah, so But first, Where exactly are you now during this pandemic? I think you’re not in France, right?

Véronique Özkaya 

No, no, right now I am in the French West Indies, in a small island with about 450,000 inhabitants for Martinique. So I’m lucky because I’m in the tropics. And what happened is I like a lot of people, I think we we were going on vacation, couldn’t cancel it. And then it’s our place here. We have a place for a few years. And we said you know what, if we’re stranded, we might as well be stranded here. And I think that was the right move and make it work. Right.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah. How is how is everything working for you and your family?

Véronique Özkaya 

It’s It’s good. You know, we are under the same rules as France, because this is like this territory is dependent on depending on France. So we even if the pandemic kind of started, you know, there’s less cases, of course, there’s about 150 cases, but they’ve applied the same rules that France has applied. So we’ve been in confinement since 17th of March, and it’s pretty strict. And for Easter, you know, there’s a big tradition in this island. Easter is a big thing. People they eat crab, crab, it’s, you know, every country has their own tradition, right? So you see everywhere science, people want to, to buy the crab. So Sunday, Monday, it’s forbidden to take your car to go anywhere. Because, you know, people want to be with their family and everything. So they’re locking it down, because the stats are getting better. So they don’t want it to go bad.

Andrej Zito 

I don’t know if you know about it, but you’ve been in Czech Republic. So you probably know the Easter Easter customs that we have. But many people around the world when I tell them like what is the custom in my country, they look at me like what is going on? You know, because like our custom, at least in Slovakia, I’m not sure if it’s the same in Czech Republic is that on Monday, the guys go around with a bucket of water, and they pour the water at the girls to make

Véronique Özkaya 

Very interesting custom for sure.

Andrej Zito 

And the best part is that then the girls, once they’re soaking wet, they’re supposed to give like some reward to the guys. That’s the best part. So you get to do harm and you get rewarded for it.

Véronique Özkaya 

The moral of that story- but but what struck me I think that is actually part also of our of the business we’re in this international business is you get to learn and work with people from so many nationalities. I mean eating trout with potato salad for Christmas meal. That’s something I didn’t know before I actually moved to Czech Republic. So it’s enriching to see you know, it’s not just looking at the world in your own views. And one of the reasons we’re in this pandemic today is because in Europe or America, we’re looking at the world with our own binoculars on and maybe we watched Asia closer. We might have learned some lessons, right? That’s true open minded.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah. So this is a great bridge to our industry. Our industry usually looks at the world as one global piece. So I’m wondering how do you discover localization in the first place? If you can remember that?

Véronique Özkaya 

Um, yeah, I think it’s, um, it was a long time ago, right? What What happened is, I wasn’t, you know, you always have a little bit of luck that plays in your career. And, and my luck came from a failure. I studied international relations, and politics. And I was destined to career in the diplomatic corps. So in parallel, I had studied languages, so I always liked that, you know, languages and culture. So I spoke decent English and German. And I was always interested in that. And I started working in the French Embassy in Dublin. That was my first posting. And after a couple of months, I realized this was as boring as it gets. For me. I respect many people, you know, embrace this career and love it. And I thought, Oh, my God, I’ve studied this years in university from Nara, what am I going to do? And, and I, you know, and I studied, I taught French for a little while business friendship, he tried to get by and figure out what can you do. And then I saw an ad, looking for a French translator. And I sort of worst case scenario, I’ll make a little money. So I applied. And I was asked to do a test translation. So some things haven’t changed in this business, right. And it was about I remember it very clearly was about computers and peripherals and motherboards and all of that stuff. And I haven’t got a clue. So you got to be resourceful. I called a good friend of mine. And I said, I need to learn about computers this weekend. And he said, okay, and he had an IT security firm, opened it up on a Sunday, open up some old computer showed me, he said, This is what it does, the peripheral goes there, and then it goes to the printer. really basic. Now that I look at it, I had a dictionary to do it. handed in my test, they took me, they said, Hey, you can spell the grammar is good, you, you, you don’t understand your topic, we’ll teach you that. So it was my first lucky break to get in. And then people saw this, this lovely lady who hired me who had faith in me. So my friend today, she got up two hours earlier every day for three months to teach me what I needed to be, you know, decent at a job of translator and she, she travelled across the city every morning, 7am we were in the office before people would come in, and she would teach me the ropes. And that was a you know, that taught me that when you’re lucky enough to come across generous people. That’s part of the lucky break. So So really, by chance, um, and then things kind of accelerated quite quickly, because that company was a small company, it became Lionbridge. So it was it was a small pirate, yes, it did it was

Andrej Zito 

Wired by Lionbridge or did they form into Landbridge.

Véronique Özkaya 

So they they they form into it. What happened first is that that company got acquired by a a network called Inc, there was a Dutch kind of association of companies and Inc, became stream International. And one of the VPS at stream international was Rory Callen. And Rory Cowan decided to do a management buyout and create lionbridge. So that was back, you know, 1996. And that was a change moment. Because from that moment when the opportunities really open up a larger organization, and I think also a very open minded organization, that gives you a chance. So if she said, You know, I want to do DTP, or I want to be a PM, people would have held that was I think I did in 13 years, eight different jobs in that organization. So

Andrej Zito 

Yeah, but when Lionbridge was formed, were you still working as a translator? Or did you already make a move?

Véronique Özkaya 

Yeah, I was a I was a senior PM at the time. And I had so I got lucky that I learned different things. So I learned to do translation to the revision. So the quality aspect, I did TCP added software testing in French. I did. I worked with the engineers when they were fixing bugs. So I learned really from the inside. I got I have a little bit impatient, so I knew this was not right. But I knew I was learning. Project Management i thought was interesting. It tested my organization skills and forward thinking, you know what’s going to happen if if So when when I took over, I was in production. And it was, you know, the time of the internet bubble. And I got an outside offer to be a salesperson. I went for the interview for operations manager at a startup. And it’s a no no, you commercial person. And I thought, Yeah, right. Don’t get upset. You didn’t get the job they giving you a different avenue. So I resigned from my umbrage. And the Grateful recount called me and said, Why are you resigning? Boss? And he said, No, you should do sales, if that’s what you want to do. And he actually said, there you go, you will do sales in Europe. And I was in charge of solutions around the support and elearning. So essentially, if you’re a call center, you know, you have loads of people answering your questions on the cost of fortune, right? How can we with translation services, translate all of the FAQs, Miss machine translation, so on and so forth, and reduce the cost of multilingual support? This had never been done before. We’re talking like, you know, 19 2000. And I was total rookie. And boy, a hardest year of my life. Because I at the time, you know, I got a two day sales course, in the UK. And then I came back, and here’s your $2 million quota. It was hard. Because I didn’t know what I was doing. And I was, I didn’t have a mentor. Mm hmm. You know, I had a couple

Andrej Zito 

Like you had before when you were starting as a translator, right?

Véronique Özkaya 

No, I did not have that in sales. So I knew roughly the methodology to follow, but I didn’t know who should I go after? Where do I start? and so on.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah. Before before we get into I’m also curious, because you mentioned that you were interviewing for this different company, before Lionbridge came in said, Hey, if you want to be sales, be sales. So you said that during that interview, that person told you that you have this commercial, you’re a commercial person. So why do you think he saw that in you? Like what are like the things that you can see, like in people that they have time for sales?

Véronique Özkaya 

I think the number one thing was really looking at things like business, not just like a function, being sales or operation is really kind of looking at a business as a whole. And the questions I was asking, during that interview, the startup was really about their strategy and where they were headed, and what was their differentiation and all of these things. So I think that first of all, you need to look at things kind of as a whole. And as a business. Second thing, willingness to learn, every single day. You know, I read, I read, I try to read an hour a day on business matters, no matter what, I think that’s this, this, knowing that, you know, tip of the iceberg. Be a little bit humble about it, if you can, I think I look at that when people say, you know, they want to learn and they’re gonna put their hard work. And and the last thing is being tenacious, you need that if you’re going to be in a commercial role, you can’t give up. You need to always bounce back that I see that people, I asked them questions during interviews, you know, why they give up on something or how, you know, trying to figure out how quickly people give up. You see, a really, people are so busy, you want to connect with somebody, you know that you’re going to have to be persistent. You get dozens and dozens of emails in your inbox, you get, you know, on social media, that people don’t pick up the phone anymore, you know, but you got to be able to be tenacious and raise their attention. So that these are the three things that you know, the business, really this, this willingness to learn and the tenacity. Because it can be smart, right?

Andrej Zito 

Has it ever happened to you that you came across a person who was doing something completely different, but you saw the same thing that that interview is so in yourself?

Véronique Özkaya 

Absolutely. And I mean, actually, even recently, I hired somebody, I hired somebody in Switzerland. And it was quite an interesting story, because I was looking for a commercial person to run to run them to work on to sales in the retail industry, in Switzerland. And I got a lot of candidates that came in from lsps people with experience and so on and so forth. And then this candidate, got recommended by one of our customers, or customers said, Hey, you know, I think this lady could have, you know, she’s not the fit that you have on your, your job portal. However, I think she could be a good fit. And again, open mindedness. I said, why not? You know, it’s gonna, if it’s bad, I will talk to her 20 minutes, if it’s good, maybe more. And what happened is that, first of all, she was better prepared than anybody else had interviewed for that site. She invited me on Skype, she didn’t know she all of that prep stuff was impeccable. She didn’t know the business so much. But you could tell that the business acumen was there, she was asking the right questions, right? And then the third, the follow up was impeccable. And an interview is a cell cycle. How do you raise the interest? Do you make a good impression? Do you understand what the other person is looking for? And how do you close it? And she demonstrated all of these skills? And, and I said, Okay, it’s a no brainer. And you know what, in her first week, she was there at all three days, and she sends me a weekly report, and she’s already got a couple of meetings booked. She went through all of her book of contacts, I think. So, so I, you, you, you get like these people where it might not be obvious. But if they display the soft skills, and of course, and she, you know, she wants to be successful. So this drive is there, the fire in the belly?

Andrej Zito 

Do you think there’s something like a talent for sales?

Véronique Özkaya 

There’s a talent for business. You need to, and also you need to like people, that’s I think that’s very important. If you’re a little bit more kind of, you’d like to do coding, and you’d like nobody to bother you, and you don’t want to interact so much. It’s gonna be tough. You need to be comfortable with people, and you need to care about people, I think that’s the key. You know, you know, we’ve talked about the cliches there is about sales, right? somebody’s trying to push you something you don’t need. For me, sales is the opposite, is figuring out what you need. So you need to care about somebody to ask them the right questions. And you need to be able to walk away if you cannot offer what they need. Right? So, so for that, I think that that liking people and wanting to help people is crucial.

Andrej Zito 

So do you think sales is more for people who are extroverted? Or do you also have experience with introverted people, but who actually care about the customers and other people?

Véronique Özkaya 

Yeah, you know, when also in this profession, you need to be a good listener. So you can be somebody who’s more introvert, provided, you know, you can ask the right questions, you know, you can get the right information and then position the right solution. If you’re too extrovert, I think maybe you just you’re actually not listening. You know, that balance. And, you know, I remember when I was a kid, I was not like, Miss social in the, in the, you know, in the school yard, and I didn’t know, I had, you know, a handful of good friends whom I could rely on, and they could rely on me. And I cared about them. And I know that in my career, then especially with commercial, you know, you go to conferences, you go to events. If I had to force myself a little bit, to be more more open and more, you know, I don’t know, yeah, more extrovert, that part I had to work on. Which shows you you know, you, you can but I do believe that if you’re too much of an extrovert, you just don’t listen.

Andrej Zito 

Alright. So let’s go. Let’s go back to Lionbridge. Sure. When when both of these companies like Lionbridge, and the company that you were applying for when they told you like, okay, we’ll make you a salesperson? Is it something that you felt inside? Like, that’s what I want to do? Because like, from your LinkedIn profile, to me, it looks like that’s what you’ve been doing, like for life, right? for your whole life. So was it What did you at that point? Did you see it as like, okay, I’ll give it a try. Or did you actually feel like, okay, like, this might be like a fit for me.

Véronique Özkaya 

I didn’t think it’s my calling. I just thought this is so exciting. That’s what I thought I thought knew, you know, it’s new. And I have been on so many meetings with customers. And I love that part of the job in operations, and finding solutions and all that. So I thought, Oh, this is exciting. And then I think I was kind of good at it. I mean, I struggled like how my first year, you know, things get imprinted in your brain. I did $456,000. This was in 2000. I remember that number, because boy, did I work for that. I didn’t make my quarter. And I’m a proud person. I hated it. I hated it, not succeeding. And the next year, I did 4.5 million in business. And that was not just done picking up the phone, but was building relationships. So then I felt Yeah, I love that. So really, I thought I liked this commercial thing. I like that aspect. But very quickly. So when in Lionbridge, I became VP for quite a large region that already had it had a broader scope. And that’s what I like I like best that’s really where I felt that Yeah. This is what I like, because you had the aspect of strategy. You had the aspect of people management, you had the aspect of implementing, you know, programs and also having the interaction with the customer. And even in my CEO role at explanation, I was a commercial CEO, meaning a customer centric CEO. My take is that if you want to be a good CEO, you need to know your top 10 customers. Otherwise, how are you going to set your strategy? If you don’t know what your customers, you know, where they’re headed? So that is, um, yeah, I kind of I was a sole contributor, like what you would say, a standard salesperson for a few years. But then in in 2004, is when I so I did it for four years. And then 2004, I took more of a, you know, team responsibilities and a regional sales and then global sales.

Andrej Zito 

I know that when we had our first conversation, you mentioned that you see salesperson, something like an orchestra conductor. And I think that’s what you’re just trying to explain to us right now that it’s not only about making the sales, but it’s actually making the whole business work for the client so that it delivers the value for them. Can you maybe, yes, can you maybe explain to us how you arrived to that mindset, going from just thinking about sales to actually being responsible for the whole team’s.

Véronique Özkaya 

I think what happened is I understood very quickly that you don’t sell in isolation. So as a salesperson, my best friends were my operation teams, I could ask them to go to the moon and back, they would do it. And it worked fantastically, I had, I was so blessed, I had the best colleagues, in Lionbridge. They were amazing. And they really, you know, the way the business was set up, it really enabled me to thrive in my commercial role. Because I had such a good, you know, a good good team in ops in tech, you know, in in DDP in all of the services. And that made me realize that thinking that you went it alone is a myth. You don’t you win as a team. So that was my first kind of really understanding of that. And then when you go after a deal, let’s say, You’re like an orchestra conductor, because you need the input from your colleagues, you know, what pricing? Are we going to put forward? Can we deliver this service? How can we stretch ourselves, what you know, all of this stuff, so you have to actually manage a number of people. And then when I went into into regional sales management, I got exposed a bit more to strategy and everything. And that’s how I really kind of saw how it all fits in. And in that role of sales management, you’re implementing a company strategy, you are implementing the commercial part of that. And again, you are like an orchestra conductor, because you have to move a lot of different pieces to make the partition, you know, work, right.

Andrej Zito 

I can imagine that like, pushing this mindset to the rest of the team is probably a challenge. Because not everybody thinks that way. like not even salespeople, but even people from production, whether it’s been user engineers, so I’m wondering, how did you get the team together to work for the customer? And think about, like, what’s the- what the customer actually wants?

Véronique Özkaya 

I’m a big, big believer in doing right, rather than selling, right? And what I did is that I brought my colleagues to the customer. Very, you know, and, and so and how would that look like? So you go to a customer meeting, we would just never go to school, it was always preparation, and I actually implemented roleplays. So I played the customer or a colleague play the customer and would ask question and things like, you know, introduce yourself, oh, no, no, no, this is just the prep, I mean, I’m really a little bit obsessive on it, it works. And you know, people, if they don’t want to do it, they won’t do it. But the majority, they do want to learn, yeah. And then you do your customer meeting, and then you debrief. So it’s really this doing, because then I tell you, your colleagues, the seed, they get it, they and then you give them responsibilities. So an example, let’s say you managing a customer and account, you create an account plan, because you can’t think that, you know, let’s say I don’t know, I’ll take a customer out of the sky, let’s say Apple gives you business, you cannot just think that they’re going to keep on giving your business if you don’t keep improving. And that’s the job of a full team. So you have an account plan, which you share with the customers, hey, you know, in 2020, we’re planning on doing this with you and 2021 this and you know, and you work that with them, then the team gets engaged. So really kind of bringing people to the table and showing them how important they are in this customer relationship. I think that that gets people to really open their eyes and you know, and they will say, Oh, I have projects, too. And that always takes priority, there’s always going to be time where you can have that exposure. And I think, you know, and you bring the credibility to the table, and people feel they’re part of the success, you know, part of the success of the company. Because there’s nothing worse than thinking, Oh, you know, the salespeople are successful. No, a company is successful. You know, it’s all of the, you know, little wheels are working together. And if one doesn’t work, you know, doesn’t turn the rest of the machine won’t work.

Andrej Zito 

Did you have any faux paswhen you introduce some of the team members to your clients? And they said something inappropriate?

Véronique Özkaya 

Oh, plenty. Yeah, and, you know, I remember one case where, where we were at a very important meeting, and the actual project manager was ill, man. And the customer says, So who’s going to be managing my project? And that person beside me? Should I say, you know, I’ll take care of it. I manageable. Oh, and she’s sick. And she starts telling that story. And I said, Oh, no, no, don’t do this. He’s like, why didn’t you bring the person to the meeting? So things like this. They happen. But then again, after this, I said, Oh, I didn’t think about that. And then you explain, you know, say, oh, how did you feel that went? And what did you think about that question? And you let the person come to say, oh, man, I put my foot in it. Okay. Won’t happen a second time. But yes, it happens.

Andrej Zito 

I’m also wondering, like, how do you do the damage control in these cases? Because I would assume that you have, like, the closest relationship with the client, or at least the clients, decision makers? So how would you go about it? Like, do you call them? Do you try to make it look like it was fun? Or like a silly mistake? Or do you like, come up with like, some action plan like this one that happened again,

Véronique Özkaya 

I typically would, you know, either talk to him right? At the end of the meeting, or, or call them and ask them how it went, etc, and try and actually get from them that they believe this was a four part. Because sometimes you look at things with your own perspective. And it happened to me that I was really paranoid about some things, customer.

Andrej Zito 

They don’t care.

Véronique Özkaya 

I try to assess first, did we really make a faux pas? And if we did, then I just, you know, transparency? Don’t you know, don’t take people for idiots excuse my language, but you know, people are smart, don’t don’t try and uncover it, just say it as it is. And then you know, and people will always value your honesty. So I just, once I assess, yes, it was straight on, and this is what we’re gonna do about it, and then do it and then check, it’s done. Right, because saying is good thing. But you know, you need to follow through, and make sure that but honesty is nothing beats honesty.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah, that’s kind of funny. Speaking about salespeople, because like, in my mindset, it’s like, they would say anything just to make the sale. And like being genuine and authentic. It’s like, not something I would associate with a salesperson.

Véronique Özkaya 

You know, I think there’s big cliches, let’s say, you know, imagine I don’t you just bought yourself a brand new car, and somebody is trying to sell you a car, you don’t need a car. You know, and then, and this feeling of pushing, I think nobody likes salespeople, because it’s associated with maybe telemarketing and pushing and trying and sell you something you don’t need. And for me, sales is about customer relationship, whether it’s already established, and you deepen it, or you’re trying to establish it. And when you’re trying to establish it, you have to be focusing on the customer, you’re going to do business with not on a number, a quota, a goal, you have to say, Can my organization supply the services and fit the needs of this specific prospect? You should be talking to the right people, because you should have done your strategy bit, you know, upstream. But sometimes, you know, you say, Oh, this company is right fit. And then you know, when you explore further, you see, it’s not. And you really have to do that, because you know, what, if you started it’s like a relationship if you started on the wrong footing or our misunderstanding. Very long.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah. So let’s let’s talk about this part of the sales process a little bit more. I think it’s called prospecting, right? It’s basically selecting who you want to sell to and who you want to establish the relationship with. So you mentioned a couple of times that like the mindsets or like the notion is that salespeople are pushy, they just want to force you to buy something, it will instead it should be learning about the customer and their needs, and seeing you There’s a fit. So I’m wondering how, if you have a new prospect, how do you find out that they actually have a need for what you have?

Véronique Özkaya 

Right, right? So it starts from the strategy and defining you know, what you pain. And I’ll tell you a little story. So when I started off in sales, it is a support. There was a couple of other salespeople in that same location where I was based. I remember I asked one gentleman, you know, he was a sales guy, can you tell me Can you give me some tips on how to prospect he made this gesture of a machine gun, and he goes, as many as you can get, and I looked at it when I thought, that just doesn’t sound right. That I just thought this is the opposite of what I’m thinking, why he was not very successful. In the end, let me tell you that much, right. And I thought, No, no, no, no, I need to be selective. So I think that’s the first thing is your focus. So who do you and we’re talking you business here? I have to go prospecting. So what are the companies? If your company, let’s say specializes in life science? it’s straightforward. You know, what do you do in life science medical device? Is it clinical trials? Is it pharma, biotech, you know, and then you identify the companies that your company should be a good fit for? So how big is the company? How much international businesses? What kind of products do they sell? How do they buy the transition services? Because you have some companies, they’re completely decentralized? So are you willing to go after product managers in 50 countries to the business? Or are you better set up, you know, when you have maybe one group of localization team or you know, or a, let’s say, a localization program enabled by procurement or, you know, purchasers? So you need to just find that fit. So the size of the organization where they play, how they’re set up? And also trying to understand maybe what they’re doing today? Where are they today? And then assessing if they if there’s a need for improvement? So you need to find the people to find that out. But you can do a first cut, right? You really can do that. Based on the sector, the type of business they’re in, you know, how this you know how they’re, they’re set up. And typically, I say to my, my salespeople don’t have a list of 2000 companies. That’s not focus, right? My preference has always been to have actually some market research done by the marketing team. These guys know what they’re doing. And they kind of say, hey, based on the strategy of the company, and they create the initial lists, and then it gets attributed to the different salespeople. So starting it kind of centrally, you know what I mean?

Andrej Zito 

Yes,

Véronique Özkaya 

That gets you thinking.

Andrej Zito 

Yes, yes, yes, yes. Yes. Because you start like from like, what is the strategy of the company that you do business for? But how exactly do you learn if your potential targets actually need you, for example, like, let’s talk about Autodesk. Autodesk has their dedicated vendors, they’ve been using them for a couple of years. And let’s say that Autodesk comes up in your list of potential targets? How do you know that they are looking or will be looking or will have the need for another supplier? So did you don’t waste time with them?

Véronique Özkaya 

Right? Well, you you, you get to talk to them. And you figure that out? If I mean, really, a company typically doesn’t change its setup, unless there’s a pain or an opportunity. So in the case of the company, you mentioned, maybe they have issues with a supplier. And that might be you know, they might be looking to replace you, you call them and you talk to them, and you understand and you find, usually you there, it’s kind of easy, I would say because you have localization managers, you know, they will they will you ask them questions, and, and sometimes it’s not a pain, it’s an opportunity, they might open up, markets were very strong. And they feel that their current suppliers are not best positioned to serve that. So either you have a pain or opportunity. You don’t find that out by reading the news. You have to talk to people, right? You have to network. There’s no other way around that.

Andrej Zito 

Yes. But that’s that’s my question. Because from you’re saying, it sounds like it’s super easy, you know, just call this person. So how exactly would you go about this? Like, let’s say there’s a new potential customer for you? How do you establish that context so that they at least pick up the phone? And you can ask them these questions like, why would they be even interested to talking to you in the first place?

Véronique Özkaya 

My first, you know, if I’m doing it myself, my first thing is to figure out who knows that person in my network. So first, my first protocol is always referral. Do I know somebody who knows somebody who can just recommend to talk to me, right? So that’s also why you should have a good reputation in this business. Don’t talk to her. So that’s the first is referrals. The second you go direct, I mean, today, we’re kind of lucky, we have tools like LinkedIn, you know. And then of course, if you’re not going to be able to talk to that person, whatever message you send needs to be interesting enough that they will want to talk to you. And that’s hard. It’s hard. My, my big advice there is to be simple. Don’t blah, blah, you know, just be straightforward. And people don’t have time, and what some will ignore you, some will say, no, not interested or whatever. And you will be surprised the number of say, you know, what, let’s just do a call. And don’t take people’s time. When you said, You recall, say, 10 minutes, kind of first conversation don’t set an hour. So things like this where and then you ask some questions, and you see, it’s gonna click on it, you know, pretty pretty quickly. Usually, when people take your call this two reason is a pain or opportunity. You know, otherwise, they don’t, you know, people won’t have the time to just entertain supplies. I used to have this really nice customer camera maker back in the early 2000s. And they used to say, each time they would go to lock world before we could be a nightmare, because he would get 10 calls a day from suppliers. And I said, Okay, so what makes you entertain the call, right? And this gentleman said to me, they asked me questions. They don’t go there. My name is and I’m selling this. And so they ask me questions, and I may not have a need for the fact that they’re asking questions, means that their their, you know, their philosophy is right. So I might keep the name for later Stitcher.

Andrej Zito 

What if during this first phone conversation, you find out that they’re not looking for anything? Would you still keep in touch with them?

Véronique Özkaya 

Yes, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. If If, again, if you think it’s a good fit, maybe that first phone call, you realize, okay, this is not going to be you know, it’s not the right fit. But if you think yes, there is, and it’s really a matter of time, sometimes it can take three, four or five years before the stars align. But if that’s the case, yes. And then not just kind of getting interested, hey, Hi, how’s it going? Sometimes you do that. But also, from that conversation, you will find out what they’re interested in. And maybe you direct them to some content that’s relevant. If somebody is in life science, and you had a conversation about the new MDR directive? Well, perhaps you can point them to resources that will be interesting. For their job, you add value. And again, you have to be genuine about that is that it might drain you. It might bring business it might not. What’s wrong and helping somebody who said, Oh, yeah, look at this, maybe that will be helpful.

Andrej Zito 

That’s a that’s a good point. I’m just wondering if you ever recommended a competitor to your potential customer? Because you thought it, they can do a better job for him?

Véronique Özkaya 

I did. Yes, I did a few times. Cases where maybe like, the customer was kind of too small. And I thought my organization was not best set for their requirements. Right? So I mean, I suggested in like, original SP or even freelance translators, because I thought, okay, you know, they only have a few bits and pieces to do. So that definitely, or else if, if you know, the service, sometimes customers are looking for a service. And with the best of intentions, you will not be able to set that up for them, then, you know, recommend a competitor, you know, what goes around comes around. It’s not a it’s not a huge industry. People know each other. Right? everybody tries to do their best to do business. So, no, absolutely.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah. You mentioned small companies. So my first thought was, what about the potential of those small companies that they could just boom and become larger in the end?

Véronique Özkaya 

Yeah, you know, I worked in very different environments. And each time the choice was kind of driven by the challenge. So Lionbridge when I got there, I mean, it was a little startup startup. I’m joking. But you know what I mean, in I lived through the company’s doubling in size twice, through m&a. So it became a pretty large, you know, outfit. And that’s, that has a lot of things that you learn through that process, right. Then when I moved to Morocco, at the time that I moved to Monrovia, it was a central European player, it was viewed like this, right. And it was viewed as a Microsoft house at the time. And there The challenge was to kind of open it up and say, you know, what, as many, you know, many other companies we can do business with, and implementing that strategy. But it was, you know, the infrastructure was very different, you know, at 20 million, it’s very different than working at $450 million. Company, right? So that and what was right with Moravia was laser focus? No, we cannot do things in retail right now, this is not our right, you know, field of expertise. We stick to where we’re building this expertise. And then we’ll expand so that I think that was very, very smart. And then I moved to a very small company Xplanation. I didn’t know, I had never heard of Xplanation. Right. And it was 10 million and I had business in different sectors. And there was a very again, a different challenge because yes, how from a being a small player do you grow, and we tripled the business overall, about five years. There it was, a journey of customer centricity was a very solid, reliable, but quite production minded organization. And you needed to let the diamond shine through that was really this, it was like, you know, a diamond in the rough, absolutely not polished, and that was a job to make the company look a lot bigger, and it was refined a little bit who we were going after, not just in all directions, what geographies, put some structure in place methodology, this was really from the ground up, it was a top job that one, because you really had to build from from from zero. and think like, an entrepreneur, even being responsible for you know, for sales and marketing, I was part of the senior management team. So you really have to weigh in on the decisions around technology around go to market. And so there was a kind of a different, we, I think in that team, we felt more like the, you know, the three, four entrepreneurs in the management team, getting this company to so different environments. And, and, and also, you need to develop different skill set, because the infrastructure is not in place. There was no HR, for example. You know, when you come from a big company, you have HR people will get your contracts, done your training, so you get there, if it’s human nature, no, we don’t have HR, such as a, you know, what I mean, you, I think the difference in a small company is you have to do a wider variety of things, you need to be like the, you know, the, like, you know, this this music person that has like, once you go like the music, man, you know what I mean? You have to be able to do that, and then know when it’s the point where you need to add resources, and delegate. So, and and, of course, as a smaller company, what deals can you get? Is it realistic? to go after Microsoft? Do you think they will give you $20 million? I don’t think so. So you need to also readjust what you’re going after. Maybe one more point under talking about small companies, I’ve been lucky enough to be on the board of gala for a couple years. And and I know a number of entrepreneurs that are in the business. And I think one of the big challenges also that when you have a small company, you’re the CEO, and you’re the salesperson. Right? And many companies is like that, and this kind of you get to a certain level, you know, how do you set up sales? Who should you recruit? And I’ve seen that many small companies, perhaps, you know, make the mistake of recruiting a very, you know, very experienced salesperson who’s worked in big companies before. And I’m not convinced that’s the right move. Because again, as as the wrong size of the shoe, right? It’s, they expect a certain infrastructure and maturity that is not there. So that is something to think about is that when you you know you want to expand, and yeah, you want to add sales staff, what kind of profile should you be really looking for?

Andrej Zito 

Yeah, so let’s, let’s be specific, like, who would you look for, if you had a company like that?

Véronique Özkaya 

I would look for somebody who’s done, you know, some commercial activities for a couple of years. Right? Not necessarily for the industry from the industry is great, and they know what they’re talking about. But I would look for somebody who’s really has got a hunting profile, somebody who’s going to really do a lot of prospecting. Because I believe that in cases like this, the CEO is still the key salesperson in the organization. So you kind of get somebody who’s going to help fill your funnel with opportunities. And as an as the CEO or the managing director or you know, like the senior person, you actually manage that sales opportunity that your salesperson that you’ve recruited, will mature, you know, and get more experienced, and then they might become that person who hires then the next salesperson. But if you’re doing you know, if you have this kind of staggered growth, and you want to organically grow your business, that’s that’s what I would say.

Andrej Zito 

So we are talking about prospecting. And I’m wondering how during this years prospecting has changed with social media and with internet?

Véronique Özkaya 

Um, I do believe that it has definitely changed. And LinkedIn has been a big, you know, change factor, because I mean, it just kind of opened up the world from a business perspective. And I still think that today as a resources is one of the, you know, most choosed resource for salespeople, no matter the industry or the business they’re in. When it comes to other social media channels, I do think that it helps you visibility for sure. So it helps you reputation, you know, and people just, you know, are aware of you, I don’t think as a direct, you know, sales tool, that it’s very effective, it’s part of the mix. And it allows you, it’s the shop window, like your website, you’re not going to sell really from your website, it’s your shop window. And it kind of validates your credibility. If If you publish content, back to this life science example, if you’re a company specializing in life science, and on social media, you keep on publishing very much quality content on the life science sector. You know, it plays to the sales because it just customers or prospects, who can say, okay, they know what they’re talking about ticking the box. So I think this is this is really been, you’ve had website for a long time, it’s just added to the to the marketing toolbox.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah. But what I what I meant was more like you using social media to kind of like, stalk your potential targets, and like seeing, like, for example, like, what are their interests on Facebook, so that you can use that in your conversation? Is that something that’s happening? Or no?

Véronique Özkaya 

I’m sure it happens. I don’t do that. Okay, I find that creepy. Creepy, I’m like, I’m not gonna look at somebody and see what they’re doing. And they’re, you know, that is not on my, I don’t feel comfortable with that. I’d rather to get to know the person and if they want to open up about, you know, if they play hockey, or they do football on the weekend, and, you know, I’m perfectly you know, I, I know the names of the kids of many of my customers, and we have great conversations and you know, because he just liked the people, right? You know, I had the the eldest one is just done his military service, oh, wow, enjoy it, you know, you and you, but you need to, again, care, you’re not going to start writing the names of the kids on a piece of paper, so you can use it next time. That’s, again, one of the cliches you need to you know, have a genuine interest. LinkedIn, yes, LinkedIn, I LinkedIn is different. Because, again, it’s business. So seeing that somebody is following groups on localization best practice or standards or whatever, then you know that what, you know, I think that’s perfectly fine. What people are interested from a business perspective? Same thing, if on Twitter, they’re publishing stuff, that’s very much business related. That’s okay. But personal stuff, for me that there’s a red line, they’re not the stalker type.

Andrej Zito 

What do you think about traditional conferences like Locworld?

Véronique Özkaya 

You know, they, they’ve been, like, the industry has not been that many kind of industry events of that magnitude. I do think they serve a purpose. And it’s back to, you know, is it the right thing for your business? I think for many companies, you know, event A is a good fit, but even B is not. So what’s important is, is to get some return from these events. And the return may not be that you get business or a customer, it might be that you get knowledge that you get contacts, you know, you need to kind of see what you plan to get out of it. And is it worth the money for sending somebody and assigned for not going to an event that if you go and you find you’ve learned nothing? I think that’s tells you that okay, not a good tip. And it’s gonna be tough. It’s gonna be tough this year for events.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah,

Véronique Özkaya 

I think that’s gonna be interesting, actually. It’s gonna it’s gonna generate a whole alternative, you know, for people because people are thirsty for knowledge, people are thirsty for improvements. So I will be curious to see actually how a lot of these outfits can reinvent themselves in times of pandemic. That’s going to be something to watch.

Andrej Zito 

I do have a question about that later. But for now, I’m still curious about building the relationship with new people. And this might be question which is similar like the stalking question. I remember I remember one episode of suits, do you know suits? Okay, so I think it was when when Mike was closing his first client. And this client was like a CEO of like, some startup you know, so like, young cool. guy. And they said that what was his name? I think Louis, the the older guy, that he cannot close him because he’s just like too old and not cool for him. So that’s why they send Mike. And they and they bonded over Mario kuwana. So I’m wondering if you think that kind of like a certain personality type, or like, based on like, what you do, like how you live your life, could be like a better way to build the relationship with someone that maybe somebody cannot get there, because they’re just not that person.

Véronique Özkaya 

You know, there’s a point to that. And if you look at, you know, how you sell a sales team, let’s say you sell in France, why do you hire a French person, because the likelihood of the French person getting on with a French customer is much higher. It’s just to do with in general, and I’m saying, I’m being very general here, people tend to get closer to people they can relate with. Right? Whether it’s by language, culture, things, you know, you know, I think that when, when, in the US, let’s say, people will talk about the game on Sunday, they will talk about the Superbowl they will, you know, and that creates a link, I think this is important. When it comes to your personality. I mean, there are people with whom you’ll never get on, like in life. And you have to, I’ll tell you, I like to kind of pepper this with anecdotes, because it’s very telling. I remember a couple of years back, we were trying to get this customer in Belgium, right. And I went to the meeting was the salesperson, so she was reporting to me, right? And I was our boss and I was going with her. We prepped for the meeting. We went to the meeting, it went very well. But the meeting was in English, because my Dutch is not good enough for business setting. Okay. But I could tell that the two ladies from the customer side, you know, they kept on reverting to Dutch and talking to my salesperson. And you know, but they were speaking, they were very nice. And they were super nice, super. But I just thought back I said hold on a second here. They’re in Antwerp. In Belgium. It’s Flemish part, they speak Dutch they I could tell the click to the salesperson. And they were joking in the corridor and everything and, and so we were so pre selected. So we had a final meeting to do. And the salesperson comes to me Okay, for we’re preparing for next meeting. I said, Yeah, I’m not going. And she said what you mean, you’re not going, but I will not be able to close it with you, you know, you got to come over. We’re going to close this, I need you there. I said no. I said, I’m not a good fit for them. And I said, we’re going to ask a colleague, he was the CFO. I said, He’s gonna go, he’s not a sales guy. And he was a CFO. He goes, we’re gonna send the CFO so yeah, his mantra is financial, this company is actually dealing with payroll and stuff like this. So the still right thing to and is very, you know, and he’s a really nice, you know, he knows the business is so well prepping. So we actually pull him in, prepped him for the meeting and say, okay, in today’s time, we’re going to Antwerp to close this business. And you know, what, they close the business. And that’s to the fit, you know, and you have to be, put your ego aside, it doesn’t matter, the team will win it, but put the right people in front of the customer. And you know, what, they built a fantastic relationship. And I never forgot that the first business review customer said, We have never experienced service like this. Your team is amazing. There you go. Happy customer business developed. right people and you know, I I call them every night again. And and and you know, but I will not actively participate. Because I don’t add value. Other people would add better value. Did that answer the question?

Andrej Zito 

Yes. Yes. Absolutely. Yes. So send the mics to talk about the marijuana if you want to close the deal.

Véronique Özkaya 

Leave Louis there’s other there’s other good fit for Louis, you know,

Andrej Zito 

Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. So you mentioned the prep for meetings a couple of times, how exactly do you do that?

Véronique Özkaya 

So I mean, of course for meeting, you typically have an agenda, right? So you cover what you’re supposed to cover. And then you cover the curveballs what may ask what happened if, you know, and and and you cover that and you ask the hard questions, you get a little bit paranoid. That’s how I prepare about all this stuff. Because you are often in a competitive situation. Right. So you need to be you may get a curveball, because the meeting before something was asked. Right. And and and then the customer says, Oh, yeah, I’m gonna ask this question. So so you just prepare all them, you know, the worst case and, and, and also, what if, so, what if a customer says they want to see pricing straightaway? Typically, you’re gonna say, Well, you know, we need to really need to see what you’re looking for. Before we present price you need to disagree on your honor strategy. Same thing. If you have, let’s say, it’s a meeting on negotiation, and it’s perfect case, right? You’re in a negotiation meeting. What are the parameters for your negotiation? What are you willing to do? What are you not willing to do? And make sure everybody is on the same page? You don’t want to be saying no. Do you know what I mean? So again, a united front, the preparation enables you to have a united front, you know, with a customer or prospect. And it’s coaching, you know, I remember you asking me, you know, what does a sales VP or you know, sales director do a big part of what you do every day is coaching people, coaching people in your team, coaching people, you know, or, you know, in the different functions, we’re going to be interacting with the customer,

Andrej Zito 

it feels like you have an answer for every question. So I’m wondering, how do you handle questions that you don’t have an immediate, immediate answer to? Do you have some like a phrase prepared? Like, let me find out, which is usually what I was taught? Like, I understand the question, let me find out, I don’t know right now, like, let’s be honest, like, I don’t know the answer, but I’ll find out? Or do you always try to come up with some answer?

Véronique Özkaya 

No, I think that I would do what you’re saying there. Which is to say, you know what, that’s not something that I’m really competent on. Or I don’t have an idea. And I don’t have a clue. But I know who I am. I can talk to, to get you the answer. And I put this as an action item after the meeting, and I go back now. Don’t try and don’t try and make it up. It’s one it’s very visible. And two would always bite you back.

Andrej Zito 

True. Okay, you mentioned pandemic. So, in your LinkedIn profile, it says that you grew revenues, I think this was during Moravia, through the 2008 and 2009, global financial crisis. So I’m wondering, how did you accomplish that.

Véronique Özkaya 

So, you know, at the time, there was a global recession, and we actually saw it with a lot of our tech customers in the Silicon Valley. I mean, some of them were closing shop for a week, or four. And, you know, we did see a slowdown, there was an element of luck, let’s not underestimate that, because there was a diversification in the portfolio. We were not, for example, all focused on financial customers, some companies like CLS at the time, we took a big hit, because the majority of their customers were banks. So we had an element of luck in the fact that our portfolio was somewhat resilient. But what we did is that we actually shifted the strategy with a couple of things, you know, financial, so with foreign exchange, different things that were going on, that we just had to adapt our financial strategy, then. And then from a commercial perspective, we really put on the heat on the sales people to develop the phone much more. And to open up, you know, we actually went after more companies during during that time. And that enable, actually, there was a, there was a blessing in disguise, because it got us into other sectors. So what we did is that we developed life science much more. And we started also going into more, I would say, like, kind of retail ecommerce type of companies. So we opened up our horizon, not just tech companies, and that actually bear more fruit. So we’re, and but we were quick. Because we had actually, at the time, I remember the lady working for me in, in sales in the US, she saw it coming. And she was like, you know, we kind of saw this in Europe after us. Right? If you remember, at the time, it hit us first, with you know, some of the financial operators just you know, crashing down. And, and, and that lady she had worked in the financial sector. And I remember she called me said, huge problem. She said, you know, this is just gonna snowball. And and I think Miranda was smart enough at the time to take this seriously this warning from this lady and say, you know, what, and then we reshaped or, you know, we we were quite nimble in in doing things.

Andrej Zito 

So it’s kind of like happening right now. Right, like things are changing. What do you think is the opportunity right now for localization companies, if like, a lot of things are moving like to online and people working from home?

Véronique Özkaya 

Right, right, right. That, to me, there’s two opportunities, there’s short term opportunities, and longer term opportunities, short term opportunities, everybody’s gonna say, yeah, you know, talk to the manufacturers of masks and respirators and paradise because everybody’s sticking home and do their own hair. You know, stuff like you, you have, I mean, you have lists of, of, let’s say, businesses that are kind of growing by x percentage in this economy, why? Some of it, you might already be in that business and you develop it further, or you might want to view your business. I think going further and it’s a crystal ball for a lot of people, you know what will happen in six months? I think we’re gonna hit the recession and I’m not a pessimistic person. I’m I tend to be more realist and sometimes a little bit optimistic. But, you know, look at the facts, I think we’re in for a really tough time going forward. But, you know, on the upside, it’s going to change how we look at doing business. I do think that when it comes to communication, when it comes to technology, there’s going to be winners out there. And it’s going to change, you know, how we how we operate. Look at I’m sure zoom as increases his adopters by 100 fold or something, but I do you think that I see, I find it harder to kind of predict further than that, I think we’re very much in the early days, what I’m doing is that, you know, I’m watching China, and watching Asia now and saying, What are these guys doing? I’m watching those indicators. I also look at how they dealt with the crisis versus we are in Europe, or we are in, you know, in the Americas. What I think that discipline in this in this pandemic is a big key. And some countries are more disciplined than others. And I think they will emerge out of this faster, but what will the economy be like in six to nine months, I think we’re in for a tough ride. And, you know, and everybody’s going to be looking for this driving, but it’s, we’re going to hit a dip for a while. In localization, we’ve kind of been lucky, right? Because we deal with international business. So if one country not like, you know, when the US in the crisis was not doing well, on the domestic market, that all the other markets to develop. I mean, that was also part of the 20809 is, it was the only industry really, that kept on growing in these times, or at least, you know, stayed at a pace. So I do think that that’s still gonna be the savior in this business. But, you know, if your portfolio of customers is airlines, and retail, and tourism, you know, I would say diversify quick, because that’s going to take a while before before it picks up again.

Andrej Zito 

So does it mean from the sales perspective, you would go on offense rather than defense?

Véronique Özkaya 

Absolutely. You need to do both, right? It’s a bit like a football match, right? You need to attack and put some goal, but you need to also protection or your your, your, your, your goalkeeper in here. And I think that this is super point, Andrej, because one thing that’s often forgotten is your existing customers. Right? And as well, and it’s fantastic to win new business, but your bread and butter and your relationships are with your existing customers. And today, what I’m saying to the teams is that, how do we keep on adding value to our customers? How do we help them? I think a lot will come back and they will have budget crunch? Because how do we help them? How can we use technology be more efficient? How can we be a little bit creative? That to me is also a key to this period, is to really have your teams tuned in with your customers, understanding what’s happening in their business, and be realistic. If your customer is a big hotel chain, don’t dream. It’s gonna take a while before they pick up, but there’s still gonna be some content there. How do you help them? You know, and maybe you need to be more creative from a pricing perspective, you’re gonna have to be flexible. But that that aspect of your existing business when you’re saying defense, I think is that there’s opportunity in that and your existing customers or somebody else’s prospects, never forget that right? Somebody is going after your existing customer, right? It’s on their list. So it’s very, that’s super important.

Andrej Zito 

Okay, we talked a little bit about Moravia. I remember when I was working there, I think morava was the first Czech company that set up an office in Japan. So I’m wondering, when do you like from the business perspective think that a company needs to create a local office somewhere?

Véronique Özkaya 

It’s typically really customer driven, you know, If you are going to work on a lot of programs with let’s say, you know, that Asian or Japanese language component, and you see, maybe you’re struggling, maybe using an outsourced model doesn’t work, it may work and then you open an office, the driver may be different, it might be that you want to open another location for productivity perspective, you know, it can it can have various reasons. I would always say that you’ve got to listen to the voice of the customer. And Miranda was very interesting that way, they had a very good office in, in Argentina in Rosario, and was doing a very nice job, you know, dealing with the American customers, it was not enough at the time. And because and when I say there wasn’t enough customers, were asking for local presence. customers wanted Program Manager, you know, in the valley in Silicon Valley, and you got to be open to that and say, okay, If we do that, you know, how are we going to get a return because it’s expensive to do these different setups, right. And by being very attentive to the customer, I think that was one of the keys to success for Moravia, and to actually make this happen. And he’s worked. So it’s it’s really, you know, listening, asking the right questions again to your customers. And then of course, you do your maths. And you see that is that doesn’t make sense for the business. Customer says, Oh, I would like you to be in Greenland, okay? What’s the value in that? It has to be balanced.

Andrej Zito 

Okay, so in Moravia, according to your profile, you were the chief sales and marketing officer. I think this is the first time that you had this marketing in your title. So I’m wondering, how do you transfer the knowledge that you have from sales into marketing, that you have to learn something? What is the interaction between sales and marketing?

Véronique Özkaya 

So in that specific case, my luck was that I studied a bit marketing. So I did marketing and public relations for a couple of years. So I had a little bit of a veneer doesn’t mean that I was a you know, a marketeer, but at least I had an understanding, right? And then, you know, like, with everything you have to in your team of experts, and great people, so how do you spot that talent, Mariah, I was blessed to have a great marketing team. There, the gentleman lebor, he was a superstar. So you know, when you have a team that that’s very talented already, it makes it easier. But back to learning. So what I did is I read a lot, I asked questions I I took in from my from my team, and then we put together the marketing plan. You know, we did that together as a team. I didn’t write the marketing plan. And, and that is no and how did we do that? Right. They had that expertise, and what should be the marketing plan, and we took in input from our different teams, on trends on on what customers wanted, and, and then we did prioritization. And and the key was, you know, with with marketing, and that, we were quite clear, we actually did, we actually brought somebody from the outside At some point to help us with our positioning. And we came up with the, you know, the flexible thinking, reliable delivery tagline from that exercise, because we were really thinking, you know, what makes us different? You said it, you know, a cheque based company, was not easy sometimes, you know, towards customers in different geographies. You’re going okay, we don’t really know what that means. And you’re not sorry, Russia. Yeah, exactly. Czechoslovakia. Were you sleeping during history class? So yeah, so that was definitely a good team. And also being willing to learn about marketing and keep yours. So I would read about trends in marketing, what’s happening in the different industries, not or industry localization industry, but across different domains to really understand what were the big things, and then that helps define the priorities. So what what Moraga had, which was, I think, a big quality was the rigor and the discipline, that Lionbridge for me was a little bit more happy, not happy go lucky. That sounds negative, but more, you know, a little bit, you know, yes, let’s get to it. Great entrepreneurial spirit. So that was really the plus side, sometimes a little messy, where morava was very much process driven. And you had to bring in some messiness into it, to make it more fun, right. And with the marketing, you know, we wanted this image, the reliability, well, we had to bring the flexible angle, because we’re not seen as a company, you know, that was able to go from A to C by going maybe to B or maybe somewhere else. It was really No, you go from A to B perfectly. And, and and then the marketing. I mean, great team and very targeted. So for example, the lead generation engine, fantastic. Everything was around the goal. What content do we produce? What webinars do we run? What events do we go to all of this really tied into into it? And you know, what that translated into qualified leads? And then of course, the salespeople were happy. Because the top of the funnel activity marketing was doing a lot of heavy lifting.

Andrej Zito 

So do you think at that time, that was the main purpose of marketing? To drive the leads? Or was it also about brand awareness.

Véronique Özkaya 

It was more about brand awareness at the time. And I think the fact that to bundle the sales and marketing actually gave it more of that kind of lead generation engine and philosophy was, you know, you’re there to help us do business. Every team in your organization is there to drive the business. There’s no point in having a fantastic shop window if there’s nothing in the shop. Right? Right, you need to grow a company. So marketing understood that very quickly. And also understood that all of the activities lead to business. This brand visibility, you know, yes, it’s fun to do that kind of stuff. What’s the purpose? And and I think that because the team understood where it all converged, it worked. So all of the all of the activities were done with a purpose. And some stuff was more fun than others, right. But still, it had that same kind of combined purpose.

Andrej Zito 

I only remember one of the campaigns where they started using these kits, on all the marketing materials. I’m not sure if it was after you join or before?

Véronique Özkaya 

No, no, it actually just just, it was it’s just when I joined actually, that there was a kid on a on a on a, on a out of the sea, you’re looking at the beach and everything. Yes, yes.

Andrej Zito 

I remember that.

Andrej Zito 

Do you remember what was the purpose of the kits in the images?

Véronique Özkaya 

No, as I said, like, it was just before me and I just thought, you know, it’s pretty, it’s cuter, that the image is the image we want to project. And and we kind of, you know, got out of that campaign. But surely, some of the stuff that was fun, I think, on marketing, for example, you were talking about events that globe world. Well, Moravia had a very clear strategy, their sponsor to dinner. And we did some fun stuff. Like I remember, in Berlin, we had a barbecue and everybody a little apron. Some people didn’t want to wear a Moravia logo apron, fair enough. 85% of the people want to say, cool, this is fun. So these things were also, and I, you know, when you were saying about events, I thought that at the time, there was a very good fit, because a lot of the customers were going to that event. So it was a perfect opportunity to have a number of people, you know, interacting with customers. And yeah, and you people remember the dinner? The Moravia sponsored dinner,

Andrej Zito 

You already mentioned some of the differences between u and Moravia. So first of all, it was size and was the way that the customers were like the market saw them. What about from your perspective, like from inside a company, or if you can talk about maybe the culture?

Véronique Özkaya 

Sure, sure.

Andrej Zito 

Difference between these two?

Véronique Özkaya 

Um, for me, it was like, coming out of the sauna. Jumping into the freezing water, it was so different. I was so naive and underestimated the difference. And don’t get me wrong, because of course, I interacted with all of the management before joining, you know, and I really liked it. I mean, I wouldn’t join if I liked the people. But of course, during that interview process, you don’t go under the bonnet. You don’t live the life as an employee of an organization. So in line with my corporate upbringing was very American. Yes, we can. And you know, as I say, like it was sometimes I like the structure for me was a little bit too messy. Sometimes I’m thinking, you know, somebody say, yeah, next year, we will do 200 million. And I would say how he’s gonna like, Where’s the plan? No, there is no plan, we just do it. Right. So and then I think in Moravia, what struck me was that discipline and that focus on process, perhaps a little bit too much. A little bit too rigid. That’s, so the focus was really on doing things, right, from A to B. And everybody played their role. And, and I saw this is a great asset to have in your company, that the fact that you’re very reliable, and you know what you’re doing, however, sometimes, not to the detriment, but sometimes not in a customer centric way. Oh, no, this is not possible. We cannot deliver that tomorrow. How do you go from that to Hmm, okay, let me think what we can do. I don’t think that’s going to be possible. But this is what I can offer. And that’s really a mindset. And this was the main thing is how to actually be more customer centric, not just a sales people. We had, we had the challenge that the majority of the sales team was in America. American people doing business in America, great fit. The majority of the production was in Czech Republic, with a European mindset and also, you know, as functions in sales, you’re supposed to bring in business operations, you produce that business, you’re not necessarily incentivized to grow the business, you know, you need to produce it and get it out the door. So it was about breaking that and seeing, you know, how do we get people to, you know, to be much more viable. About the customers. And you could tell sometimes the salespeople were getting frustrated with the No, it’s not possible. So it was really this program to see, you know, how do we change the behavior. And it took time. And you know what it comes from the top. It comes from the top and and I was very blessed that my colleagues in the management team, you know, they evolved the way they were working, they evolve their communication style, they evolve, how they discuss expectations with their, with their teams, it took time, but you could see that there was open mindedness, and I think that was a really what, what the morale a great company, that, that will, realizing that, okay, we need to evolve, we’ve done very well, we need to change how we be. And you know, what, I brought a lot of my colleagues from Czech Republic to America to the customers. And same process, prepare, do the meeting and then debrief and then you go, Okay, now, I’ve had some fun episode where the, with the CEO, we would walk work on, you know, what would he say the next day, at this big meeting with the custome

Andrej Zito 

About unkown?

Véronique Özkaya 

What should be the key? Yes, absolutely. What should be the key points, you know, and he was very, also very like this, you know, I’m open to, you know, how do we do this better. And that was also why they brought me in from Lyon bridge, they wanted that knowledge from the bigger companies. So, so that’s, it took a while, you know, it really took three, four years for things to to change, smart hires along the way. But you could tell them, the behavior changed. And the last thing that happened to make this work was organizational change. So the structure change from functional to kind of business unit. And it was a big learning, it was like, sometime, the people are not the problem. The way a business is structured is the issue. So how do you align that, you know, production people? Well, if you incentivize them on the growth of the business, maybe you’re going to get a different behavior. So that was the kind of the I would say, the, the mechanical piece at the end, to say, okay, we’ve done things a certain way. But if we changed our structure, and we incentivize people differently, we’re gonna get different results.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah. But yeah, that’s what I would just want it to ask, like, if you also collaborated with HR, on making this mindset shift.

Véronique Özkaya 

Absolutely. And I was key, because you know, it’s not just HR. For me, it’s not just the talent recruitment, and the, the the governance stuff. It’s really also the ongoing development of your talent. It’s talent management. And they were keen that and sometimes, you know, a little bit of a thing, oh, my god, you’re asking for the changes. But if you don’t change stuff, you know, you end up just in a rut. So key key to that change.

Andrej Zito 

Okay, you mentioned Xplanation, a couple of time, I think you said it was a smaller company. I think this is the first time at least according to your profile, that you were a CEO of the company. So I’m wondering, how did your day changed as a CEO?

Véronique Özkaya 

So my day changed concretely in kind of increasing the breath. Right? That’s, I think that’s a good, good summary of that, where, you know, not suddenly, but I had to take way more decisions in the areas of finance and HR and tech, if it was not a difficult transition, because I was already part of the senior management team. And and we were blessed with a CEO or explanation, who was, I would call him a democratic CEO, in his leadership style. So he was very much a person would ask people’s opinion, decisions were made collectively. So having that involvement for already, you know, four years, made the transition much, much easier. And so the breath was the first thing. And I think the second thing is, for me, was to lead people to do what needed to be done. So not being authoritative, that’s not the right word. But can I say, Okay, guys, we’ve set a direction, this is our vision, we’re going to implement and and i don’t like excuses for why things cannot be done. So there are, you know, people who were colleagues, I had to kind of say, Hey, hold on a second here, you know, this is why is this not happen? So I have to kind of also change the dynamic with some of you know, with the people to say, you know, what, failing is not an option, and drive, you know, drive this locomotive. I think that this this was the second main change. And you know what, it was exhilarating. Because people were very much engaged. You will always have, you know, 5% of the people there. with people who are negative, you can be sitting in the tropics on the beach with a mojito, they will still be mosquitoes or something. There’s always people like that. But I think that that was the most interesting part of that journey, this engagement that people understood, we spend a lot of time on the simplicity of the vision, right, which was really around that customer centricity and making it accessible to everyone. So that was my biggest, I think that implementation, that cultural thing was a successful thing, and which is like, we are all in the same boat, everybody has a role. So and I tried to be as inclusive as possible. And that made a difference. You know, and I’m not saying that previous, it was not like, we change it in the fact that we kind of made made a lot of employees across the organization shine, we put the spotlight on people in different functions, role locations, and, and show them, you know, showed everybody that contribution to the business. And I think that that actually had a big impact on morale, which in effect, and a big impact on business. So that’s, I think that’s, that was the thing where, for me, this took a lot of energy. That communication, because, you know, you were asking about the chase, or you can, you know, the broader responsibilities, you know, you need to kind of drive things across the organization. But that third piece, which is the communication, this is where I spend a lot of time. So, you need to split yourself way more as a CEO, because you’ve got your investors or your board, right, you’ve got your customers never forget, you should be, you know, this, you should be accessible to your customers, and you’ve got your employees. So how do you divide your time and attention in the right amount, with this red line of communication? All the time, when you don’t communicate? People think the worse. When you over communicate, they don’t open the email, you know, you got to find this balance. But this communication was where Yeah, I spent quite a bit or stakeholder management.

Andrej Zito 

I’m still curious what you do about the, those 5% people who are just simply not on board with with the vision?

Véronique Özkaya 

Well, you know, you’ve got two types, you’ve got the ones who are just negative, and you know, provided they don’t just tell everybody about their negativity, you can kind of live with them. And then you have a small percentage where you know, what, you don’t want them in your organization, because it’s like, the rot on the apple and you see, you know, what is their contribution, what maybe, maybe, also, sometimes people should be in a different rule that maybe, so you never kind of goes oh, they’re they’re negative, we don’t want them in your organization, you try and figure it out. Sometimes it’s just, you know, it’s personality driven. But I think every organization has that. Most important is that people understand that you’re listening. You know, so how do you measure the engagement? I mean, you see it, like, for example, I used to do this, this multi CEO letter. And in addition to maybe, like, like, zoom meetings, etc, the opening rate was super high. And that’s a very good indicator, if you have a 90% opening rate, you go, okay, people are interested. So there are ways of kind of measuring this kind of engagement. And let’s, let’s say you have an event, always you people complain about the food, right? They complain about things, and then you got to read every single of the comments. And, and actually communicate what you will do after. So when we used to do employee surveys, it was not just an employee survey in a void, there was really a follow through. And and and we would actually share what we had done after afterwards. So,

Andrej Zito 

You mentioned that as a CEO, you had to basically balance your time between all these stakeholders, I’m wondering how you how you did that, like, how did you decide like, I’m going to spend this much time with these people.

Véronique Özkaya 

So it, the calendar played a little role to that, of course, you know, when you have your board meetings, or you when you have custom travel, where you’re going to meet with customers. And then what I did is that I was blessed with having, again, great team members. So you empower people in your teams to do stuff and to do more, so that you can actually fulfill your role. So I give you a very simple example that that that SEO newsletter that would be every month, you know, I would initially kind of write it fully myself. And then I showed my marketing team, okay, that’s the kind of style and listener. Here’s how we’re going to function every month we’re going to have a call, I’ll tell you about the ideas, you’re going to have a first draft of this and you know, and they got the hang of it and i and i would say manage expectation. It has to be fun. So they have carte blanche as it’s find something That’s fun to

Andrej Zito 

Blanche

Véronique Özkaya 

Yeah, they have like free, it means that they’re free to, to do things the way they want, right. So I say go a little crazy, be you will be fun. But then I would say, you know that, you know, powered by our marketing team, you know, give them the credit also. So you use you surround yourself with people that you know, these people want to do different things, more things, and you empower them to do them. Because you just can’t do everything yourself. And then the second thing is that you can’t be afraid to make changes that sometimes are going to make people cringe. They will not like it. But you know, it’s going to be for the better. And then, you know, everybody looks back at Oh, yeah, that was a good idea. So, and again, how do you implement this change, because you have people in your teams going to drive this. So tell, I remember, I have a good contact in the industry, gentlemen who used to manage content, empty Tonio doubt. And I remember when I was in Dublin, a couple years back, and we were having coffee, and I was asking him, you know, what is your life like, as a CEO, and you know, what, you know, what? Learn from your peers, right? And he said, vernick, talent, talent, and talent does the one thing you should be obsessed about. And that stuck with me, and he was right. With the right people, you can accomplish, you know, miracles, I get very enthusiastic, right?

Andrej Zito 

Was Xplanation, just a localization company, like a service based company? And how this Xplanation then tied to Language Wire,

Véronique Özkaya 

Right. So Xplanation was, you know, this kind of, as I said, two diamond in the rough. So it was a spinoff from Siemens. So it was a technology company, rules based Mt. workflows, the thing is that it was this company that had a vision a little bit too early and put the money in the business too early. So in the late 70s, late 90s, a lot of money was put into this tech development, thinking that’s going to be you know, we’re going to be selling empty, and workflows. And it was, I think, one of the first companies that could manage 5060 projects a day on a platform in year 2000. Right. But then after that, you know, money dried out, and the company became a little bit maybe more traditional. Right. So what I got in was really about, you know, how do we recoup the investment that’s been made? And how do we grow the company? Right. So that because our board wanted to sell, right, so and that will tie into the language wire, of course, and, and the company grew with a mix of organic and acquisition acquisitions. And, and one of the challenge was, you know, what do you do next, you need to keep on investing in tech, you need to keep on listening people, and then on our board was actually saying, you know, what, at some point, we want to exit, you know, we want to to recoup our investment, and it was a couple of candidates lining up. And, you know, when you become like, $35 million, $40 million of revenue, you start, you know, it’s a small industry, so you can start making a little bit of noise, and language wire, that was kind of funny, because when they were doing their m&a approach, they had a list of candidates, and we were number one on the list. So that was so funny, because they showed that they’re there, t Kappa capital, private equities, and these are the targets we had, and you were number one, and, and language wire had kind of made a lot of investment in different areas. And so you know, what we think is going to be a good fit that, that that, you know, we will be able to be very complimentary. It was geographic, we already started us. And, and, and we had kind of more Western and 1000, Europe, weather language were very, very strong in the Nordics. You know, it was complementarity in tech, it was complementarity in talent. So is it a good fit? And, you know, what we didn’t have? I think we had one common customer. Isn’t that amazing? I mean, when you think because companies exactly have the same size, and roughly the same number of employees. So, you know, yeah, exactly. So this is, this is how it happened. It was quite quick. And, and, and or, you know, the owners of Xplanation, were very happy that you know, the company that they because they thought their money was down to drain I tell you that much. And yeah, because you know, when this is this is a thing when you invest. You don’t know they really invested in the future. I mean, they didn’t come from a language industry background. And they invested in in language technology. So the big gamble, and I’m glad for them that it, it paid off.

Andrej Zito 

That’s what I’m curious about, like why was it early for such a tech because like now everything wants to be automated, right? You have automated workflows empty. Why was it not good in 2000?

Véronique Özkaya 

Because I In 2000, the customers were not there yet. The customers at the time, it was still big projects, you would do an 18 month release with the tap on the hand, and we’re done. And let’s wait six months and the next one comes in, etc, where the tech and Xplanation was set up for streaming content, small chunks of content very quickly. And, and so then, you know what, they have the tech, but the money came short to invest and in the sales engine to develop the business. I think that’s that’s really, you know, in a nutshell, the story. No, and tech, you know, you know that yourself, that’s a challenge in the business tech in any industry gets antiquated very quickly. So you need to keep on, you know, upgrading your tech.

Andrej Zito 

Was Language Wire a tech company, when they acquired explanation, or what was their main business?

Véronique Özkaya 

Main business, translation services, localization services, but of course, powered by technology, I think a lot of organizations have understood that the key to doing business is to have a strong platform, and to be able to implement your own machine translation, workflow, customization, and connectivity, all of these, because you know, it is we are going to move slowly, slowly towards a subscription model, where you’re going to get your localization on tap. I always use this analogy of the carwash, where different types of content will create will need different workflows and different price points. Right? If it’s content that you just want to understand, you’re not going to pay the same money, then for an ad in a glossy newspaper, and you expect it faster as well, you know, this, this this content?

Andrej Zito 

Okay, so I didn’t know much about Language Wire before I started doing research on you. So when I go to the website, I think, to me, it looks like it’s mainly a tech solution right now, because they’re selling the platform. So is this platform something that language were developed? Or is this something that they acquired through Xplanation?

Véronique Özkaya 

No, this is a platform that was developed by language wire, so language wire has own development team, and has developed this this, this this TMS?

Andrej Zito 

So how is it different for you to sell tech versus services?

Véronique Özkaya 

Well, I ran the enterprise unit within language wire, so that was actually all of the big customers. And, and, and you actually don’t sell tech, you sell tech enabled solutions. So because what your customer buys, ultimately, it’s language services. But there’s a big tech component, because they want you know, what does the customer want, it’s back to this, you know, customer wants simplicity. They want speed, they want quality, you know, and they want a good price, they want this this equation, they want it all right. But it has to be simple. And that’s the key thing, it has to be easy to interact with a supplier, and it has to be fast. And technology enables the simplicity and the speed, and also the quality. And because it catches errors that human may make or admission may make. And and this is very important, because this aspect of automation, is what’s driving the time to market. So if as an organization, you invest in your platform, so that you can automate the workflows as much as possible, that actually pays to his time to market. So you indirectly selling technology, because this is, you know, what enables you to deliver the service. When you have areas I mean, some customers that connectivity is a big deal. They want to connect directly from CMS or any doc repository. Again, why? Because less errors, less manual work and Faster, faster time to market. Yeah. Same thing, you know, in a workflow nmt. I don’t think customers want to talk about mt, at least not the majority of them. It’s a productivity tool. They expect that you’re going to use the best tools in your workflow to deliver to them the best quality at the best price point and as fast as possible.

Andrej Zito 

You mentioned pricing a couple of times. So I’m wondering how you think about pricing like do you set like price for each client separately? Is there like a standardized price list? How does it work when you sell like a tech, which may be like a SAS subscription, which probably have like a standard rates? Or how does it compare to the services where you have maybe like hourly rates, word count base rates.

Véronique Özkaya 

So when it comes to tech, absolutely, it’s you know, software as a service model, where you have a monthly subscription, sometimes it’s a one time cost and you’ve got maintenance and so on and so on and so forth. So it’s really very much similar to you know, software world. When it comes to services. I think today, we’re still stuck in that price per word. And we’re going to be there for a while. But it’s going to start moving. I mean, you’re going to bundle this in a different way. And it’s going to come to subscription for some types of content. That’s where I believe it’s going. And how so how do you set pricing? Well, it’s it’s a factor of what what you buy at price, your call your cost, but also, and it’s important, what’s the market at? Because, you know, let’s say you buy a 10, and you’re consistent, and you say, Okay, well, I’m gonna buy or sell at 30. Is the market ready to take 30? Or is everybody else at 20? So you need to really take that into account. So typically, what we do is that we set, priceless, that is applicable to a certain type of content and language combinations in service, right? Because devising pricing from each customer is I think it’s a bit of a nightmare, first of all, and but you need so you need to have parameters for your salespeople to navigate that that’s your process, then the second layer to that is the what if, what if it’s a very large deal? What if, you know, there’s some specific thing, and you set processes and rules for pricing approval, and it has to be fast? Right? You know, we need to be able to give a volume rebate, or we need to, so you set the parameters. And you know, what, I’ve always been lucky to have salespeople who have been very diligent from this perspective. And the benefit of that is that you don’t have surprises down the line. So very much productive sales, people say, hey, that’s the deal I have, this is what we’ve quoted for, I can have it for, you know, we need to do this, or this is the feedback from the customer, how do we manage this, and then you support them. And that has also the benefit of limiting friction in your organization. You know, back to cliche, you know, the cliche of the salesperson who just sells the house away and comes back, say, Hey, I got the deal. But by the way, I get 50% discount. Thankfully, I’ve never had to experience that.

Andrej Zito 

In my experience with one previous customer, I know that the margins for that customer were pretty low. But the benefit for the company was that they could say, say that we work for this customer, which in the end might bring some more business. So I’m wondering like, if in your perspective, it’s okay, maybe sometimes to even like loose money with a certain customer.

Véronique Özkaya 

I would try to avoid that as much as possible, I think that sometimes you can make concessions, because you have a benefit, which can be what it can be lower margin with very big volume. So in the end, you will make the money, right, that can be one reason. Second, you Yeah, it may be something that’s going to enable you to access another, you know, it might be let’s say you want to go into a different sector, this is going to be your first customer in that sector is going to be the entry point, right? That can be that can be a driver. However, I think that for our relationship to be healthy, you need to be able to make money. And you know, if you cannot, then you this is not the right fit for you. One thing though, to take into account is to be to look at the total life of a customer, right? When you start working with a new customer, you’re gonna actually incur additional costs initially, for the onboarding, the setup, you know, you’re gonna have more team members involved on the account. So you got to take that into account that the first few months may not be indicative of the real kind of margin you will make. But I think losing money is not a good idea.

Andrej Zito 

Is that something like the lifetime value and the customer acquisition costs that we normally calculate for SaaS businesses? Do you also do that with like regular courses?

Véronique Özkaya 

I do that and you you can do it, you know, just as a No, I mean, I think it’s a healthy way of actually running your business. It can also be driven by the fact that as you say, You’re not making the margin that you are, should be making with a specific set of customers, and then you get into analysis. But I believe that this is actually a healthy metric. To to monitor.

Andrej Zito 

I lost one question. I had a good question I lost it. Well, yeah, you know, I remember sorry. How do you deal when customers come to you and they asked you to lower their rates?

Véronique Özkaya 

Well, I try to understand why. If you know, and there’s always a reason why it might be a procurement person who has like some specific goals to meet it might be that there’s a pressure in order. So I tried to find out why. And I and then the second thing I said was the quid pro quo. If I do something for you, Mr. Customer, and we’ve been serving you very well for many years. What you know what can you give me an exchange? Fair, you know, fair, fair. negotiation? And, you know, there’s nothing worse than customers? Uh, well, you know, lower your rates, or else, then you got to question your relationship you have, right? And you got to, and also, you know, with the quid pro quo, you got to be specific. You need to actually say what you want. It might be, you know, what I’ve been trying to get to talk to the marketing team for a couple of years, they won’t afford me a meeting, will you actually make that recommendation and make sure I can, you know, at least talk to them? Or it might be that we do you do a press release? Or I mean, it may be many, many things, but you got to be precise about what is it that you want you would like, in exchange,

Andrej Zito 

When would you work from a sale or from a client? Existing one.

Véronique Özkaya 

Ideally, an existing one. I would say probably two reasons. One, you know, the one thing, you’re really not making money, if you’ve come back to the customer, and you’re trying to figure it out, and it’s just, it is not a good fit, you know, one of these customers wants you to translate, you know, projects have two words, and they want to pay you by the word, and there is no volume, and the quality needs to be amazing. And if you make a mistake, they sue you. I’m putting everything in the pocket here. But you know, it’s just not a good fit. And their expectation is not something you can meet. So that’s where you know, and you’ve tried, I mean, you’ve tried many different angles as work. The second reason, and I’ve had that in the past is that if the relationship is a kind of a master slave relationship, if the customer is horrendous to your teams, I think that you have to ask yourself that, you know, you know, I’ve had people in tears in tears. I think that’s an acceptable, that, you know, and I have, I mean, fortunately, a long time ago, but I’ve had customers bullying, literally project managers, I think that this is a big No, no. And then you’re going to say, you know, what, how am I going to address that? These would be the two reasons.

Andrej Zito 

What about a potential new customer?

Véronique Özkaya 

What would Why would you walk away? Because, early enough, you realize, you know, what, we’re not a good fit, we cannot fulfill their needs. They’re better off with somebody else. You know, what I mean? You know, I’ll give you an example I had where customer needed something a specific technology solution, it meant quite a lot of development. It was not a platform that we had in our in our in our kind of most use platforms that say that we could plug in, and I thought, you know, what, we’re not ready. Now you need a solution. Now. We don’t have all the ingredients. And we came back. And and you know what, and that customer was very, I think, very grateful that we didn’t try to stretch it. And we said, Look, this is what we can do. It might not be enough, and you know, and report it in a good way. And maybe the stars will align later. But it’s hard. You know, we’re talking about sales here. It is hard for a salesperson, because it’s tough. You know, if you look at stages in sales, right? Your first stage is what you call go shared, identifying a common goal, and opportunity, a pain. And with a timing and a budget. So this, this first step is very hard to reach. So when a salesperson gets there, and then this is not a good fit, that can be hard. But you know what, you’re better off because you will expend so much energy, and it will not lead to success. So it’s better to be very realistic about it.

Andrej Zito 

I’m very bad. Or sometimes I’m very bad at small talk. How do you think this is important for salespeople is it important

Véronique Özkaya 

First of all you don’t strike me, you don’t strike me as that whatsoever

Andrej Zito 

Because Yeah, that’s interesting, because like right now, I think I’m actually doing like what you said that I’m just curious about you. I’m like asking questions, because I’m curious about you. But like, if we start talking about the weather, like, I can say much is like, like, I would rather just like get straight to the point like, Hey, tell me what are your problems? Because I like to think about that. But I am not good at small talk. So how do you think small talk is important in building the relationships?

Véronique Özkaya 

Oh, it’s really depends on who you’re dealing with. I think some people they expect a little bit of, you know, to chat and, and some, not at all. So you got a sense that first of all, you know, is it actually should you have a little chat by getting the coffee before the meeting, or you get straight into it right and kind of adapt to the person. And then when it comes to small talk, you know, I think that again, see what they start with and then getting from it and asking questions, so you can find a couple of topics that will be relevant, and the weather gets pretty boring. Quick, um, I do think that in general, yeah, some people are more comfortable than others, you know, what we’re talking about, about the fit, and the culture to elements? You know, where are you from? And you know, like, if you’re from Minnesota, and you’ve grown up there and your customers from there, there will be something you’ll talk about. Right? That that’s, that’s one thing. And and the second thing is what, what’s your role in an organization? If you are in commercial, you’ve kind of forced yourself a little bit by doing to being used to that. So it’s harder, you know, I know like some of my colleagues engineer, it doesn’t come naturally. Because, you know, their function maybe is not something where you need to do that every day. So, okay, go straight to the topic.

Andrej Zito 

So how does your day look like right now? Or like before?

Véronique Özkaya 

Well, before now it’s quite nice in this tropical island. So before, yeah, so what my day looks like, typically, I start off, I kind of look at my nails as I walk to the office, if I’m in the office, you know,

Andrej Zito 

So do you commute and do you check your emails on your phone?

Véronique Özkaya 

So I walk, I walk. So it’s a 30 minute walk, and I either listened to a podcast or read my mails quickly, I have a Skype call with a colleague or somebody in my mind, but I can use that 30 minutes is to get me into the groove. And I know what my calendar looks like. So when I go into the office, I don’t like to start by doing my emails, I want this to be out of the way, right. And typically, what I do is that either I have sorcerer engagements.

Andrej Zito 

So does it mean that when you get to the office, you already checked all your emails? Or do you? I can, I can only assume that you get like a lot of emails, do you somehow prioritize which ones you check? For when is the time for emails outside of this 30 minute window,

Véronique Özkaya 

Usually I do my emails, I have a couple of slots during the day where I actually reply them to emails, I try not to have it open all the time, because otherwise I get, you know, sidetracked. And then I will have so my favorite days are when I actually have customer interactions, where I’m visiting customer, existing customers, usually, it’s quarterly business review. So I support team members, right? I don’t have customers whom I manage directly, I have a team of people who manage these accounts. So I support these people. And then it also on the business, I may go to with the team member to a new prospect. So I may travel to Paris, and go to a big fashion company, and we do the meeting together. Right? So that’s, that’s, that’s a day on the road. If I’m in the office, usually I have a rhythm of business. I have one to one with my direct reports. And the one to ones. It’s about data and qualitative approach. So data is are they on track? What is their funnel looking like the value of the opportunity. So there’s quite a bit of time, actually, you know, in my day where I need to look at data, and I need to analyze data. So I don’t have my email always open. But I have my Salesforce, you know, my my CRM open right? Now. So if you want to be managing a sales team, you need to be good at data and looking at transit. Because the main thing I do then with my teams is coaching. So that is what’s fun, it varies, you know, the coaching can be on a specific opportunity. It can be on a skill set. But but this is actually a big chunk of my day is spent with my teams, if I’m not on the road, with my teams, coaching them on specific things, or bouncing ideas with them on an on an opportunity or a deal. approving pricing, this kind of stuff. So in a daily offices like that, What I don’t like is too many meetings. I just think that I’m known I’m known for I’m known for this thing is that here’s the gift of time, that if there’s a one hour meeting shedule it’s done in 40 minutes, right?

Andrej Zito 

Yeah, just up

Véronique Özkaya 

Right? Because it instills a certain discipline, you know, who wants to sit in meetings if it’s not productive?

Andrej Zito 

Well, there are people.

Véronique Özkaya 

Yeah, yeah. That’s true. You know, you’re talking about profiling, and we’ve been impatient. I’m like, okay, we’re done. We can chit chat with coffee later. Yeah.

Andrej Zito 

You’ve mentioned a few times that one of your key responsibilities is of course to coach the people. So I can imagine that a lot of the coaching comes from your own experience? Sure, how do you learn new stuff? And then how do you when you learn how you can like test it? In reality?

Véronique Özkaya 

That’s a great question. So, I love to do I mean, today, I spend quite, you know, still I try to get our day and either podcasts or reading and so that’s my kind of self learning. And and in the role I have, I’ve been also lucky to have management coaching. So that has helped me more on kind of them, you know, kind of soft, soft skills to some level. Yeah, I’ve had, I’ve had that. And and it’s been great, because it just gives you, you know, different that different perspective. And then how do I kind of impair this knowledge to people? Well, I try and figure out what are the pieces that will will be good for a certain person. So that is really, it’s like, it’s like a bit like the doctor, you diagnose it. Yeah, somebody may be great at negotiation, but may have a bit of an emotional intelligence challenge. So how would you work with that? So I tried to prescribe, you know, that they could, and sometimes I’m not the best person to coach. So one thing that I’ve done in the past here, which, which has been great is that actually brought in somebody I knew from, from my previous, you know, previous time in my career, where that person, I actually deployed him for some specific stuff. And it gave me bandwidth. And I knew he was much better than me at doing that. And, you know, and and he went through every single salesperson, my team, that stuff got done. So you also have to know your, you know, what you’re good at, and where to bring, again, the talent from outside to support you.

Andrej Zito 

So So what is the source of your learning? Like, what do you listen to? What do you read?

Véronique Özkaya 

I usually I follow a couple of economists, like you know, so I followed their podcasts, one that I listened recently was called, we crashed. We work.

Andrej Zito 

We work, yeah

Véronique Özkaya 

there, right? And we crashed, you know, but you know, very nice insights. I also follow a couple of sales, blogs a couple of and actually, it’s interesting, because it’s often people in the States, or we’re doing that. So. Now, the name escapes me, of course, but it’s a couple of guys, I get the newsletter, I also follow McKinsey quite quite a bit. These are I mean, they have their you know, at the moment is everything about the pandemic, but I think that they have very good content and insights. This is more on a business level, I read that I read that religiously, a Harvard Business Review, same thing is really good, good stuff in there. So it’s a mix of business publications and podcasts, and then some specific sales stuff. And sometimes I join a pure sales webinar, just to see, you know, are they gonna say stuff that I don’t know, maybe new, new ways of looking at things so. And I find that’s kind of fun, because you need to adapt that. It’s usually done, you know, for the US market and us customers. And then you say, Okay, how do I move this for other, you know, other cultures? And

Andrej Zito 

If there’s one thing that you could recommend to new people who are thinking of getting into sales, what will be would be like one book, one podcast? What is the one thing for them to struggle with?

Véronique Özkaya 

Yes, do I would read, I would actually get them to read from good to great. It’s a very old book. And, to me, it was very inspirational, that if you do the right things, you’re going to get the right results. So don’t just focus on the end price. Focus on doing the right thing all the way. And if you’re getting into sales, you know what might seems tough, it might be you kind of go My goodness, I’m not successful here. If you do the right activities at the right quality level, you will be successful.

Andrej Zito 

It’s kind of what Moravia used to do, right? When you said that they were very rigid about what they were doing.

Véronique Özkaya 

You know, that there are certain steps you got to you got to follow and things will fall into place. And, of course, you need to know how to navigate this because things change along the way. But I do believe you know, if you focus, like focus on helping your customers, if you focus on that, and do the right things, it’s going back to plentiful.

Andrej Zito 

Going back to your day, do you have like a hard stop when you say like no more work after this, or are you workaholic.

Véronique Özkaya 

I’m not the best in that. I okay, 80% of the 70% of the time, my walk back, my walk back is when I kind of wrap up so I do my last calls, etc. And then when I get into the door, I stop whatever happens though, is that in the evening, I tend to check. I don’t look at my emails so much, but I may check my teams, you know, because there might be somebody on the west coast and you know, and it doesn’t bother me, I don’t feel that that’s like work. What I’m not so good at is that when I’m working from home, I need to be better. I can say, Okay, enough. Now, don’t go back to that desk, because they can be too long. But I tend to work a bit. Yeah. Well, I like it. The thing is that I think when you like what you do, you don’t see it.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah, it’s not nine to five right?

Véronique Özkaya 

No. And I have a family. And, and that’s been always my motto is that they should never feel like they come second. Right. And, and I have a funny anecdote that when, when my eldest was small, I used to say, I come home, you know, and she a little earlier than normal. And I say, I cancel everything, all the meetings, all the calls, so I’m going home to my daughter, and she used to love it, you know, because I think that’s important. Your, your family, you know, this is what also to be successful. I think in a career, it might be your circle of friends, might be your family, it might, you know, I think that if you’re lucky to have that balance, you know, and to have these people supporting you, I think it’s key. It’s key to being good at what you do. Because you’re happy at home, right? Or you’re happy in your in your environment. And you have to maintain that thing, work, work work. It’s important to work but there’s other things.

Andrej Zito 

That’s funny, no, no triggered one memory that I have. So let me explain. This also ties back to why I have like this that mindset about salespeople is, yeah, you’re doing a pretty good job. Yeah. So why don’t my colleagues in when I was working in alpha, he told me that this one person, sales guy in that company, that he never stopped selling, like, even when he’s outside when he’s drinking beer, outside of work, he keeps selling. So I’m wondering if you also feel like you’re selling all the time? Or if you can, like, make a difference?

Véronique Özkaya 

No, I don’t behave like that. I might, I mean, it may happen that in a social environment by having conversation, you know, I figured out how somebody I mean, somebody might actually neither or services. So I will, you know, I will be very conscious that we’re in the social setting. And I will say, Oh, you know, by the way, my company does, you know, and they know, then they know me, and they say, look, and people will call you, but I would not do it during the social setting. I think there’s a place for everything. Yeah. If you’re, I mean, it happened. Sorry, I sorry to interrupt you. It may happen that you may meet people during your travels, for example, yeah, somebody might chat with you in the plane, etc. And you know, it just happens and during conversation, but in a social setting. For me, it’s a bit different. You’re there for entertainment with your friends.

Andrej Zito 

What are you curious about right now?

Véronique Özkaya 

That’s a good question. I’m curious about the Easter weekend, we look like in confinement? No, I’m actually curious. When we’re discussing before, what is this world going to look like? In six to nine months? That’s, that’s what I’m curious. I think that, you know, I’m not being very innovative here in my answer on because that’s what a lot of people are asking. And I’m curious to see if this is gonna be somehow a lesson in humanity. If people are going to change, we had this funny comment yesterday, that, you know, we were allowed one hour out for exercise. And we said, Wow, people are so much friendlier. Now. Everybody there. They’re like, a metre and a half away from you. But people say good evening. Hi, you know, you you see the same people at the same hour during their daily walk. And I’m curious to see that how as a as a racism, mankind, we are going to change, you know, with what’s happened. That I don’t know.

Andrej Zito 

I’m thinking if I should ask this question, because it doesn’t fit the team that we are now we’re kind of like wrapping up with the journal questions. But mostly, we’re going to ask it because I asked everyone, what do you think is wrong with our industry?

Véronique Özkaya 

What do you think is wrong with our industry? I think that our industry is too much in the trenches, too much consumed with itself and the nitty gritty. And I think that, you know, we have to focus on the purpose. What is it that we do, you know, we enable companies to do business internationally. And I think that talking about transition memories, then I always ignore, nobody cares about that. I think that as an industry, we have to elevate ourselves to be more business. In this, you know, people and and the the role that we were doing, but still a pretty resilient Sorry, it’s very honorable, silly, you know, we’re talking about Christ etc, it has proven to be a resilient sector. So we should be proud of working in this in this business. And yeah, like every industry I think has way to go in some. And you cannot compare what we do to you know, maybe some of the big tech companies, which have a lot of means, right to develop the products that they didn’t produce. But we got to elevate the conversation of it.

Andrej Zito 

What are the things that you changed your mind about? Like, for a long time, you were like, Okay, this is it. This is where and this is what I’m doing. But suddenly something like, shifted in your mind?

Véronique Özkaya 

Well, that’s a tough one, though, hmm let me think. Yes, that I thought that I should always do more. And you know, that I was a little bit too much of a perfectionist, that it’s good when I do it. And one illustration of that is at the beginning of my sales management career, I tended to kind of overtake the meeting, when one of my salespeople would come, big mistake. And then I changed. And I said, What’s the point? Another one, you know, I need to make the other person shine. It’s not about me. And and that was really something that realizing that I don’t need to do it myself. I need to teach somebody else to do it. Yeah. And they can do it and they will not, you will not do it the same way. So what they might do it better.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah, very good. What are the absurd or stupid things that you do you?

Véronique Özkaya 

That I do or that I did?

Andrej Zito 

You can choose whichever.

Véronique Özkaya 

Some of the silly things I did. Um, I think that, um, it’s many, many managers will say the same thing. Is that annoying that when you have a team member, and it’s not working out, spending too much time to make a decision to change? You know, because you said I and I’ll give it a bit more time and that I’ve gone through that I’ve made the mistake. And I’ve learned that, you know, you don’t do anybody a favor, by by being too slow in the decision making. So that’s, that that was silly that I used to kind of let it drag a little bit too much. And now I’m tougher, but I’m clearer in terms of expectations. So it makes things I think, more transparent with with the teams.

Andrej Zito 

But what about like, your personal habits that might seem like awkward to like most of the people, like for example, I don’t know, like, you arrange your sandwiches, like in a certain way or something like this? Do you have anything like that?

Véronique Özkaya 

Not you know, I I kind of I think that’s my Moravia, D. So I like discipline and structure. Right? You know, so I don’t like when it’s messy around me, my desk needs to be you know, my desk is not cluttered. Let’s put it this way. But it doesn’t get obsessive. You know, I kind of don’t mind. I’m just trying to see what kind of people I remember that once we have lunch with lunch base, right. And I drank Coca Cola, and somebody said, Oh, my God, you you drink Coke. And so what kind of image do I get that people get to say, No, you always drink green green stuff and super healthy. And this and that. And they were like, going, you know, like, and I said, next, we’re gonna see you eating a burger. This video. Wow, what kind of image do I project? So I think that maybe Yeah, I’m a bit of. Yeah, health kinda like?

Andrej Zito 

Freak?

Véronique Özkaya 

Right? Not not too, but again, not too obsessive. But yeah.

Andrej Zito 

What is your favorite CAT tool?

Véronique Özkaya 

My favorite cat tool? The simplest CAT tool.

Andrej Zito 

Okay, that? Is there one like that?

Véronique Özkaya 

I don’t know, you should tell me because I’m looking for the simplest. So and I mean, this seriously, you know, I could not be translated today. Not with 1500 features on you know, whatever as dl as I think that. You know, you were asking me about the flow. And this industry, perhaps is also to overcomplicate things. We’re in a different world where that’s faster. And that’s where you go to go to the core, I think and again, translators, listen to that. Don’t take it in the wrong way. Because I am not a translator, I assume from talking with other translators. It’s about translating. So the tool you’re using should be simple to use. You should be paid for doing your work, which is you know, coworkers translation,

Andrej Zito 

Right. What is your favorite software in general, or like a tool that you use?

Véronique Özkaya 

My favorites Oh, wow. I like zoom. You know what I like zoom, because I think zoom is, you know, it’s, we always put the camera when we do meetings. And that’s something that we change also, like when we’re at language wire that we said, you know, camera on, people, we’re not used to that, because I think that these kind of collaboration tools are great today, the likelihood of a bunch of people working in offices less and less. So I love this collaboration tool.

Andrej Zito 

Your favorite word in French?

Véronique Özkaya 

My favorite word is GMO food. I don’t care. No, no, my favorite word in French would be merci. Thank you. Merci is to be grateful. Yeah, grateful to many things. I think you got to count your blessings in life. You’re healthy if your family is healthy, you know? Say thank you. Merci. Merci beaucoup.

Andrej Zito 

Your favorite TV show?

Véronique Özkaya 

My favorite TV show? Oh, wow, I follow quite a bit. You know, I have this like, see I become also a bit of a Netflix user, like many, many people, and I like stuff. Last thing I watched was like Chica style, cabaret. I’ve been really kind of interesting all the Spanish series. I’ve watched because I repel and you know, things like this. Also. I like the fact that I watch it in Spanish. With the title and yeah, yeah, different series suits. For example, you mentioned suit. Yeah, I watched it also. And I asked people, I have some my go to in the company. And I said, Hey, you know, and I, Karen, what have you been watching? Because I get referrals.

Andrej Zito 

Is there something like TV show that you like repeat like you watch it several times? It would be like really like your favorite?

Véronique Özkaya 

No, the only thing I rewatched was Game of Thrones, because I couldn’t remember really what happened. Before the last season, I just watch it again.

Andrej Zito 

Final favorite question? What is your favorite fictional character?

Véronique Özkaya 

It’s actually Harvey from suits.

Andrej Zito 

Oh really I love Harvey. Yeah.

Véronique Özkaya 

I think that is, is bold. Yeah. Is the cliche, right is a cliche. But I love the fact that you know, no matter what, it will make it happen. Yeah.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah. Is your husband like that? Yes.

Véronique Özkaya 

I always say that, you know, what, if I was stuck on desert island, I would want him there. Because I will be fed, I will have a bed and no wild animals would attack me. So I’ll be sorted.

Andrej Zito 

Okay, is there anything I should have asked you, but I didn’t?

Véronique Özkaya 

You know, we talked quite a lot. We covered a lot. And we had a good conversation. No, I can’t think of any I think the one thing that you know, we had discussed before is that to be successful, you know, we’re talking a lot about sales and prospecting, etc, that it is my conclusion that it’s really about a team effort. So it’s like, really for for a company to be successful commercially. Every piece of the company needs to work in that same direction. And that, to me, has been always the recipe for success. And for people feel they’re part of something. And in sales, yes, you may be at the the forefront and movie in front of these customers. You’ve got all the people in the different locations, making it happen. So that’s my conclusion.

Andrej Zito 

Awesome. Yeah, I think we can think of that as your final parting words. Unless you have something else that you want to speak to the industry.

Véronique Özkaya 

No I think it’s a good conversation and I appreciate this chance we had

Andrej Zito 

Thank you very much Veronique Thank you.

Véronique Özkaya 

Thank you so much. Take care Andrej.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah, see you next time. Bye bye.

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