Accord co-founders, Ross & Ryan Rich opening for Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, circa 2012
Right before the pandemic hit, Ryan Rich and his brother Ross left their job at Google and Stripe for their craziest adventure yet: founding Accord! They’d worked together in the past – performing as a hip-hop duo in college (yup, that’s them in the photo) and organizing countless fundraisers and concerts. Starting a VC-backed tech company was the next logical step for them, right?
It was late 2019 when they started Accord, the world’s first Customer Collaboration Platform. It’s a shared workspace so buyers and sellers can work together throughout the laborious B2B sales process—making it a lot more collaborative and a lot less painful.
As part of the founding sales teams at Stripe (Ross) and Google Cloud (Ryan) saw how little innovation there was around the buyer <> seller relationship. Account executives were running multi-year, multi-stakeholder, multi-million dollar deals with email and conference calls.
They went through Y Combinator’s Winter 2020 Batch and recently raised $6M from Stripe. Some of their early customers include Figma, Productboard, and Very Good Security.
Connecting with the minds behind Accord
I caught up with co-founders of Accord, Ross and Ryan Rich, who talked with me about the future of their company and the world of B2B sales.
Q: Accord takes a buyer-first approach, what exactly does this mean and why did you decide to take this approach?
As sales reps, Ryan and Ross shared that they used to think closing a deal was hard work… But that was before they started talking to buyers about their experience. After interviewing dozens of buyers while getting Accord off the ground, they quickly learned what it was like to be on the other side of the table.
“In retrospect, we really had no idea how challenging it was to actually buy something! The legal reviews, security reviews, consensus building, budget negotiations. Most evaluations end in no decision AND there are over 10 decision-makers just on the buying team.”
There are thousands of sales tools that focus on making life easier for the sales team—yet none built with the buying experience in mind. This is the perfect example of how sales aren’t truly focused on the most important person in the sales cycle: the buyer!
Q: There’s mention of moving from“Vendorship” to “Partnership”, what exactly does this mean?
Ryan shared his perspective on what Accord’s tagline “From Vendorship to Partnership” really means:
“A vendor is focused on their product and selling as much of it as possible. They love talking about bells, whistles, and discounts. (No one wants to work with a vendor.)
A partner, on the other hand, is a subject matter expert concerned with helping their buyers make the best possible decision. The modern buyer comes to the table looking to collaborate. They want a partner to help them think about their business and its challenges. Take Figma for example. Companies want to buy from Figma because they want a partner to help them with their overall design and creative process, not simply because of a function or feature.”
Q: How will B2B sales evolve in the future?
Think of everything that’s happened in the B2C buying process in the last 20 years…buying insurance, a trip abroad, or a new car. It’s frictionless and a human is only involved in the last 20% of the process (if at all). That’s coming to the B2B world.
Buyers are begging for a different buying experience and sales leaders are struggling to keep up. Especially at more traditional enterprise organizations. Ryan believes that there’s about to be an explosion of technology to support this new relationship. There’s no way email, Slack, conference calls, and shared docs are going to cut it. You can’t replicate a frictionless B2C experience using home-grown tools.
It’s an expensive problem and you are already starting to see a lot of new startups, like Accord, in the space.
Q: What are some actionable strategies B2B sales reps can implement to put their buyers first?
Build empathy for your buyers. The more a sales team understands their buyers, the better they can help them. Take time to interview your buyers after as many won and lost deals as possible. What was the most painful part of the sales process, where did they experience the most friction? Ryan also recommends a recent article on positioning yourself as a partner and how build empathy for your buyers.
Most teams are afraid to ask their buyers about their experience—especially when deals were lost. Buyers are surprisingly open to helping their selling counterparts learn and improve.
Q: What are the plans for the recent fundraise? What’s the future hold for Accord?
Off the back of their recent $6M seed round fundraise (led by Stripe & YC), Accord is staying laser-focused on building the Accord Customer Collaboration Platform to help revenue leaders create a repeatable, collaborative sales motion.
This includes: investing even more in our R&D team (across engineering, product, and design), as well as starting to scale the GTM side of Accord with new hires in sales and marketing.