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It’s that time of year again for another round of Project Blacksmith! If you’ve been following Vainu, you may remember our Blacksmith Program from one of our previous blog posts. The purpose of the meetup is for internal development, as members from each Vainu office (New York, Stockholm, Helsinki, Oslo, and Amsterdam) come together to share ideas and learn alongside each other. This particular Blacksmith took place in the Tech Hub that is Dublin, Ireland, and was truly unlike any other. While we were there, Dublin experienced a snowstorm that shut down the entire city! We heard from the locals that there hadn’t been a snowstorm like this in Ireland for at least the past 20 years.

Though we were snowed in for the majority of the trip, the weather could not stop us. We stayed in a hotel that was right down the street from companies like Facebook, Google, and Yahoo, and had internal workshops, as well as office visits with Intercom, Salesforce, and Dropbox! Safe to say, we stayed pretty busy.

Day One: Vainu Foundations

The first day of the trip, we gathered for an internal workshop to evaluate ourselves on the foundations of our company and the features of our product. We collaborated as a group to assess everything from our own understanding of Artificial Intelligence in Vainu, to how well we currently demo the tool. Together, we came up with solutions for improvement.

Day Two: Office Visits

Though we had plans to visit the offices of Intercom, Salesforce, and Dropbox on the second day of the trip, all offices were shut down due to Dublin’s snowstorm (as was the majority of the rest of the city). Salespeople from most of the organizations ended up trekking through the snow to meet with us in a hotel conference room we reserved at the last minute! Each of the speakers presented a unique perspective on sales process and methodology.


We first met with Ciaran Nolan and Patrick O’Neill of Intercom via video conference. Both are part of Intercom’s Sales Development team in Ireland. Ciaran and Patrick described Intercom’s significant growth, as well as the importance of using their own product to drive Inbound conversations. The key takeaway from this meeting was Intercom’s concept of "real-time sales,” which is an initiative to drive down the response times with incoming demo requests.


Second, we met with Marko PriimägiTim Bergers, and Alexander Christensen of salesforce.com. With them, we discussed the importance of branding, marketing, and culture in Salesforce, as well as the systematic way that they do sales. The takeaway here was understanding that Salesforce is much more than just a CRM, as the tool has numerous capabilities outside of the CRM function. It was also fascinating to learn that, although Salesforce has billions in annual recurring revenue, the fundamental aspects of their sales process are somewhat similar to ours at Vainu.


Finally, we had a visit from the Head of UK Sales at Dropbox, Siobhan O’ReillyDropboxoriginated as a B2C company and has shifted into the B2B space, so we had a lot of conversation around driving business in new spaces and markets. Our biggest takeaway from Dropbox was understanding how data-driven they are in their prospecting efforts, as they place emphasis on using the data that is already available to them through their Freemium users to convert opportunities into business.

All in all, the office visits were beneficial to the team, as we were able to gain understanding of different approaches to B2B sales.

Day Three: Sales Presentation and Communication

For the last day of Project Blacksmith, the team attended a workshop with Olivia MacDonnell of ConfidentSpeak. Olivia is one of Ireland's leading voice and communication coaches, and educated us on the importance of - you guessed it - speaking confidently!

There are a few key takeaways from the workshop with Olivia. First and foremost, we learned of the importance of having a “hook.” This means that, as a salesperson, you have 30 seconds to captivate the attention of your audience; it’s your job to give your audience a reason to listen to what you have to say. We also learned that your audience should be defined by those listeners that are “on the fence,” rather than those that are already convinced. These are the people that are most important to keep in mind when planning out your presentation.

The group participated in a presentation exercise where we were able to put a lot of the lessons we’d learned over the day into practice. For this, we each presented our own “hooks” in front of each other, filmed these presentations, and gave each other feedback in an open environment. This was helpful because we received feedback on a personal level, but also learned from the feedback given to each other. A big focus of this session was working with “vocal contrast,” the practice of speaking dynamically, with feeling, and placing emphasis on the most important words in the sentences you’re speaking.

Project Blacksmith is an opportunity to develop and improve as a salesperson here at Vainu.

Finally, we learned how important it is to breathe. Breathing before presenting prepares you by calming you mentally, and easing your anxiety. This makes for a better presentation, and enables you to do your job more effectively.

The trip to Dublin was a huge success, even with the blizzard! Project Blacksmith is an opportunity to develop and improve as a salesperson here at Vainu. We had the opportunity to connect with colleagues from other offices, hear different perspectives and ways of doing sales from industry leaders, as well as receive coaching from a top Sales Presentation and Voice coach in Ireland. We left the trip with new friends, but also fresh ideas that we each can bring back to our respective offices. I know there have already been some workshops done on some of the concepts we covered in Dublin!

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