- Nov 05 • 2 years ago
Walk & Talk with Dexter Cutajar 1 of 3: Sales Strategies and Accomplishments
To commemorate the Company’s 15-year anniversary, NetRefer’s C-Level and Heads step onto the stage in a docuseries entitled ‘Walk & Talk with Team NetRefer’. We take a candid look at NetRefer’s inner workings through the eyes of the Company’s leaders.
Taking up where we left off with Federico Russo’s – Head of Human Resources – three-part interview, today, we’ll meet Dexter Cutajar, Head of Commercial for part 1-of-3 of his interview. We’ll be visiting Lascaris War Rooms, former British Headquarters, renowned as the strategic nerve centre during World War 2. Here, Dexter will open up on NetRefer’s Sales Team’s strategies and accomplishments.
NetRefer is a real veteran of iGaming affiliate marketing. You’ve partnered with some of the real giants of the sector, but ones that weren’t always giants. Can you talk about some of those partnerships and success stories.
Sure. NetRefer started its journey within the iGaming industry 15 years ago. When NetRefer started off, the industry was still ramping up, especially when it comes to affiliate marketing and performance marketing. Affiliate marketing was really the start of what the industry calls performance marketing, where you’d have iGaming operators going out in the industry, recruiting affiliates – an extension of the operator – in order to get to the masses. And NetRefer came into the industry and, essentially, revolutionised the way in which affiliate marketing was done by giving an all-encompassing tool. This allows operators to track that affiliate journey, onboard affiliates and expand their affiliation rep.
15 years ago, when we came onto the scene, we were onboarding, what at the time, were startups. They weren’t necessarily startups as iGaming operators; but they were still starting up their affiliate marketing programs. We’re very happy that our first client is still our client to date, and that they have grown tremendously over the years. And it’s not only with our first client, so that wasn’t our only success story – and that’s where we’re really confident in using the term partnership.
For us, these partnerships need to tick multiple boxes. Whenever we get into these partnerships, we need to see longevity; we need to see the movie play throughout the years. And we’ve been very successful in how we do that.
The company and the way in which we do business have evolved tremendously over the years. We’ve gone from being ‘client-driven’ to being ‘client-centric’. Today, we can really say that we’ve embraced that ‘client-centric’ mentality.
Tell me more about what’s the difference between being ‘client-driven’ and ‘client-centric’.
‘Client-driven’ is when you’re starting up as a business and you’re going out to your partners, understanding their individual needs, and executing on those needs. So, in this case, it’s more the client who is stirring the ship than yourself as a business. You’re going with the flow. They’re giving you their specific needs and you’re executing without necessarily understanding what those needs really are.
Over the years, when NetRefer got to a stage where we understood what value we’re bringing to our clients and what the industry actually needed, that’s when we started to shift. Over the past 3 to 4 years, we’ve really focused on that shift. Today, we’re in a position where we understand those clients’ needs and we’re taking those needs to the masses. This means, really understanding the needs and what the client wants to achieve. And from there, developing and executing on that broader strategy.
In other words, we can explain it as streamlining individual needs. Because at the end of the day, this is one industry. While on different scales and to different degrees, the needs of one are the needs of many in the industry of the masses. And that’s when you start developing your value proposition you offer in order to cater for those needs.
That’s where the platform has come out of and evolved, right?
Yes. Today, it’s a streamlined offering but it’s also still customisable. And that’s the beauty of taking this client-centric approach. Because, in doing so, you’re ensuring you have a sustainable business, you’re streamlining but you’re still open to customisation. Those customisations are streamlined and sustainable.
Let’s dig into the early part of that partnership. One of your first teams that’s under your protective wing that prospective clients see when they first contact NetRefer is the Sales Team. When I met Jackey Backman – NetRefer’s Chief Performance Officer – in a previous Walk and Talk, she emphasised the critical importance of the company’s core values – Clear, Fair, Trusted. So, from a sales perspective, how do you implement that strategic aspect when it comes to negotiating with prospective clients?
When I joined the company, one of the first things we did was to really take the time to understand what message we wanted to deliver to our clients through our Sales Team. In any sales environment, one of the most critical aspects is delivering a clear message, managing your clients’ expectations, and ensuring that you can deliver on what you commit to deliver. Especially with NetRefer, it goes beyond just one sale or a single interaction. We look for longevity. So, as I say, a client who we onboarded 15 years ago is still our client today. You wouldn’t be able to achieve such longevity if you’re overpromising or if you’re under-delivering.
That’s where the function of our Sales Team comes in. In fact, for two or three years, we were calling our Sales Team the ‘Consultative Sales Team’ because they were taking a consultative approach. We wanted to make sure that we were consulting with our clients as to what they can expect, what we can deliver upon, and in what way we can deliver what we’re committing ourselves to deliver.
It sounds like there’s an actual initial consultation phase with each client, where you explore what they’re trying to achieve and how that matches with what you’re able to offer.
For sure. NetRefer is very boutique in that way. We have just over 100 clients. We could cater for the masses but we still want to offer that personal touch. We still want to make sure that our Account Managers and our Sales Team have the time to really sit down with the client, understand their needs, and consult both with the client and internally to ensure successful delivery.
It all starts with the Sales Team. The journey starts there. They are the client-facing proxy when it comes to initiating the journey.
And so, it sounds like it’s all about building that bridge between the client and their expectations on one hand and the various service providers within the company that are going to give them what they are looking for.
And ensuring that seamless transition from not being a NetReferian to being one. And the Sales Team is the very start of that journey.
When Covid-19 struck, real life meetings and public events came to a complete grinding halt. Obviously, a big challenge for a sales operation. Talk about how your team overcame that hurdle to continue meeting and attracting new clients.
When Covid-19 hit, it hit the industry at large, but the impact of that went far beyond. We were quite successful at mitigating the impact of Covid-19 internally – within the business. We were able to take our operations from being office-based to being online within a matter of weeks. Our first focus was our client-facing teams because we wanted to ensure that any potential impact was mitigated as quickly as possible.
We had clients within the iGaming industry who were very dependent on sporting events who came to a halt pretty much immediately. So again, we made sure we were reaching out and sitting with the clients, understanding their pain and what they were going through. And, we made sure we catered for that pain, ensuring we could stand by them in whatever way possible. We were consulting with certain clients on a week-to-week basis. We wanted to understand what they were saying and how the effect could be mitigated. And, we were quite successful at doing so.
On the other hand, we had new clients and we needed to make sure the business would continue growing. When Covid hit, we didn’t really know how long this would take. Luckily, we had put sufficient effort into our sales process, so we were already in place – our sales pipeline was sustainable. It took us through the pandemic, which, I hope, is coming to an end. But again, it all takes a lot of work, effort, dedication, and especially, focus on partnerships.
In other words, it literally went from meeting prospective clients in person to meeting them through a Zoom call or an equivalent conferencing platform. That must have been challenging for your team.
Indeed, it was, but not as challenging as I would have expected it to be in other industries. iGaming was always at the technological forefront. We were already used to doing business online. Out of our entire client-base, only 30 to 35 clients are located in Malta. We interact with these clients on a weekly or monthly basis, depending on their requirements as a business. So, we were already used to the online world from before Covid. During Covid, it became much more of a need, especially because most of our teams were operating remotely. So, I think that, all in all, we’ve done quite well.
Basically, you’ve continued onboarding new clients.
Yes, we continued. However, there was indeed a slowdown, but not in terms of client requests or prospects approaching NetRefer. We still had continuity there. That said, we purposefully questioned how we can strike the right balance in directing our operational teams between maintaining the focus on our existing clients and supporting them on one hand and growing the business on the other one.
Very interesting, Dexter. Thank you very much.
Watch the 2nd installment of Dexter’s 3-part interview here to learn more about how the company adds value through Account Management.
A special thank you goes out to Andrew Bonello for conducting the interview.
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