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May 17, 2021
5 min read
When it comes to horses, do you know the difference between dressage and show jumping? Kathleen Butler does, and she’s freaking good at it (that’s her in the photo). She’s also freaky good at closing deals, so we’re pumped to profile her in our new “Deal of Fortune” section after the feature story.
Our “Feature Story” looks behind the scenes at a company whose market cap has grown faster than the Teslas they protect. It’s a lesson for sales leaders – profitability and bottom-line growth still matters.
Before we dive in, here are a few things that grabbed our attention last week:
More leaders and reps weighed in last week to give their outlook for Q2. As we inch closer to quarter-close, more are leaving the "Neutral" category. Unfortunately, it's the "Concerned" group that's growing. More than half are now worried about missing goals.
We would love for every sales rep and leader to vote! Please give an updated outlook on Q2 projections anonymously. We'll share week-over-week trends in the next issue.
Thanks in advance for voting!
🚘 Don't Chip the Tesla 🪨
The year is 2011. After barely avoiding bankruptcy in November of 2008, this EV car company is showing signs of life. They debuted on NASDAQ ten months ago at $17 a share. Early backers include the founders of Google, major automotive companies like Daimler and Toyota, and Elon Musk. The latter is now the CEO and has the vision to take electric cars mainstream.
Another company, founded in 1997, makes paint protection film for cars. Thinly traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange, full-year results for 2010 just came out and showed 7% year-over-year growth on revenues of $4 million. After losing $566,000 in 2009, however, the company turned a nice profit of $426,000.
If you had invested those 2011 sales commission checks, both would have made you rich, but it’s a company called XPEL that’s delivered better returns than Tesla. (Coincidentally, many Tesla customers buy XPEL products to protect their Model 3 and Model Y luxury rides.) Research from the Alpha Letter shows the list of companies with over 10,000% returns in the last decade is relatively short – Celsius Holdings and Trxade Group are the only other two.
How did XPEL pull it off and grow enterprise value at such an accelerated clip?
🎨 XPEL Now 📈
The answer might surprise sales leaders. The company seems intent on driving bottom-line results. Profits grew to $25 million last year, or 16% of revenues. Gross margins continue to expand. Sales efficiency and product pricing appear to be rising in tandem— ultimate product-market fit with solid demand and customers willing to pay a premium.
For 2020, revenues came in at $159 million, an increase of 3,878% since 2010 and 22% year-over-year. Mild top-line results compared to 2017 and 2018 when the company saw 50-60% increased revenue. Combining growth and profitability trends, XPEL, as a manufacturer, competes with best-in-class software companies.
The company has a recently growing sales function of thirty, mostly made up of territory managers (several have started in the last year), account managers, and business development. A modest marketing team exists with someone dedicated to events. The management page shows both an SVP and VP of sales.
And they have lots of fans who leave rave reviews and write blog posts like this:
Overall, I’d highly recommend the XPEL Ultimate film for anyone looking to protect their vehicle’s paint. It can be a pricey pill to swallow, but the protection and peace of mind you gain pays for itself over and over. I’d recommend setting aside a few bucks to have the PPF applied immediately after picking up your new car, as every minute you drive without it is another opportunity to collect chips and stains that will have to be corrected!
-Ben Walters from Ben’s Car Blog
Investors, shareholders, and company executives can fall in love with top-line growth. Drive revenue at all costs, literally. Some famous companies like Uber, Zillow, and Slack have never been profitable – and in some circles (see venture capital) – a business reaching profitability is like waving a white flag. XPEL proves there is a path to explosive growth and value creation without losing a bunch of money along the way.
If you’re a CEO, founder, or sales leader, please drop us a line on how you approach the top-line and bottom-line growth balance. We might share your wisdom with readers next week 🙂.
Kathleen’s been riding and competing with horses for most of her life. She also owns and manages multiple properties in California and attended Duke and Yale's executive education program (in the same year). And she's one of the best closers I know.
As Senior Director of Corporate Sponsorships at ExecOnline, Kathleen's full-time job is doing whatever it takes to hit her seven-figure quota. Her company partners with top global business schools to deliver online leadership development programs in strategy, innovation, change, and execution.
Setting and hitting million-dollar goals is a piece of cake in 2021 compared to the situation Kathleen found herself in when she embarked on her 10-year run with CEB. It was the Great Recession, and Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns both collapsed in six months. Unemployment would accelerate to double digits.
Her reward, no surprise as a new hire, was a challenging territory that included Western Canada.
“They were not keen to work with American companies, but I found one Fortune 500 executive to give me a chance to present for one hour. I ditched the standard approach for something new – a custom presentation that amplified internal silos happening at the organization. I painted a compelling vision for how the product could break down those silos. It was risky.”
It was a high-risk, high-reward play. And it worked, but not in the way Kathleen expected.
The executive put more work on her plate by inviting a group of other Canadian companies to attend a half-day presentation that Butler and her team would lead. It was a packed house, and after rocking the presentation, Kathleen shared ninety percent of the group became customers within six months.
This group format presentation became a new revenue generator for her and other sellers that led Butler to the Chairman’s Club six years in a row. This deal propelled her to three subsequent promotions at CEB, culminating in a "Managing Director" title before taking her talents to SAP.
To this day, the "secret sauce" is still the custom element of her presentation.
"I have one custom page dedicated to teaching the prospect what I learned about them in my research. It creates great dialogue, and I always find something really cool about them."
She also lists workflow automation (optimizing the tools in her sales tech stack), storytelling, and the ability to create urgency to close deals as her selling superpowers. If you're interested in learning more about Kathleen or ExecOnline for your company, connect with her on LinkedIn.
Are you a star dealmaker and closer? Take five minutes to fill out this short form. We'll polish it up, write your profile, and get your approval to share with The Weekly Pitch community! Deal of Fortune is a fun twist on the Q&A and an opportunity to elevate your personal and company brand.
Virtual fist bump! You've made it to the end. Please refer a few friends or your entire team. It would mean a lot to us to keep this sales newsletter community growing. Come back next week as we report on the "reverse buffer," a counter-intuitive goal-setting strategy to drive revenue and team morale.
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