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How we hire Inbound Sales Development Reps

Following our $13m Series C funding round to improve our UK offering whilst continuing the quest for global expansion, the need to effectively scale and ramp the sales team has become more important than ever. As a result, we've revisited the way we prepare, interview and measure prospective Sales Development Reps (SDRs) hires.

Within the Sales Development team, prospective reps typically have little or no experience in a sales environment. This is awesome: we can hire people with tonnes of potential who haven’t picked up bad habits and are super keen to learn. But hiring people without experience requires a different type of interview process.

Sales Development at GoCardless is made up of two teams: Inbound and Outbound. In this post we’ll focus on the Inbound hiring process.

The aim of this blog post is twofold:

  1. To give an insight into what we’re looking for in new Inbound SDRs
  2. To equip interviewees with all the tools they need to succeed throughout the interview process

How do we interview?

Our interview process is designed to give you as many opportunities as possible to flourish in real life scenarios. We want to find out about you as a person to ensure that we match your goals and ambitions. It also gives you a practical insight into the day-to-day tasks associated with the role. A typical interview process involves:

1. Phone screen

This is our chance to get to know you a bit and your chance to make a great first impression. The call will last for 20 minutes, during which we'll ask you a few questions and answer any questions you've got for us. The specific questions we're looking to answer are:

  • Are you excited and passionate about working in Fintech and startups?
  • Do you want to work in sales?
  • What do you want to get out of the role?

2. On-site

We'll bring you into the office for a:

Background interview. We use this time to find out about your previous experience and assess your skills against our key competencies. We’ll also drill deeper into your motivations about working within sales and more generally how you communicate.

Role play. Here we’ll conduct a mock sales scenario where you’ll play the role of an SDR getting in touch with a prospective client. We’ll give detailed feedback after the role play and ask you to repeat the exercise (tweaking the situation, slightly!).

Five tips for the on-site interviews:

  1. Research SPIN Selling. This forms a great foundation on how we do sales here. Try and do some research of the SPIN structure and prepare some questions that might come up in the role play.

  2. Be structured. Good communication is really important in sales. Read about the pyramid principle and apply it in your answers.

  3. Be prepared. It’s always useful if candidates can demonstrate some product and industry knowledge. Our Recurring Payments Guide gives an insight into Direct Debit vs other payment methods, whilst signing up for an account is the best way to understand how our dashboard works (don’t worry, it’s free to sign up!)

  4. Keep things simple. One of the hardest skills in sales is explaining something complex in a simple way. Think about why you want to work in sales?

  5. Listen. Good questioning and good listening are two of the most important skills in sales. Listen carefully to what we say and use it to ask intelligent questions.

3. Final round

We'll bring you back in for a final round consisting of:

Email feedback session. In between the on-site and final round interview stages, we’ll ask you to construct a follow-up e-mail to the customer you spoke to in one of your role plays. You’ll be given “perfect notes” to work with, including key information such as contact details, pains and sizing. We’re really looking at your written skills and how you approach and construct a client facing e-mail.

Executive interviews. The final stage of the interview process is your opportunity to meet our CEO and VP of Sales. Come armed with questions and bags of enthusiasm.

Who are we looking for?

In order to consistently stay ahead of the curve, we regularly sit down and review who we’re looking for and how we interview prospective SDR hires. Whilst we have refined our processes and priorities over time, the key personality traits required have always remained. We firmly believe that prioritising these five characteristics have shaped the great culture, team and environment we work within:

Smart. Our product can be quite complex and technical. To succeed here, people need to be smart enough to learn the technical aspects of the product in detail.

Driven to learn and improve. Your drive and motivation to improve are key to success. We strongly believe that how good you are in a year’s time is more related to your attitude than your current ability.

Likeable. Building rapport quickly is essential to succeed as an SDR. People don’t like to buy from people they don’t like and typically make judgement within the first 30 seconds of any call or meeting.

Communication skills. The ability to explain complex ideas simply is absolutely crucial for our salespeople.

Coachability. Giving and taking feedback is one of the most important aspects of our company culture. The quicker you are able to act on feedback, the faster you learn.

If you’re unsure, please apply. We'd love to hear from you!
We're hiring

New fundraise - $13m to support our new payment network for the internet

We're excited to announce that we’ve raised a new $13m funding round led by Notion Capital and supported by our existing investors Balderton Capital, Accel Partners, and Passion Capital. We’re particularly pleased to have Notion Capital on board as their team will bring additional expertise and experience to our board having built and exited three highly-successful businesses including MessageLabs.

This is key for us to succeed in our vision to build a new payment network for the internet. It allows us to improve on our existing product in the UK and Europe, as well as expand our global footprint.

The fundraise is not the only milestone GoCardless has reached over the last few months. Today, we’re also pleased to announce that we are processing more than £1 billion per year - collectively, our 16,000 merchants are collecting over 10 million payments each year through our bank-to-bank network. Our solution has opened up access to the Direct Debit system for small businesses, and has helped multinationals meet the needs of their customers with a Direct Debit solution built for the digital age. We’re proud that this has contributed towards the 5.8% annual growth in Direct Debit payments that Bacs reported last year.

In addition to opening up Direct Debit to small businesses, we’re also creating new ways for customers to pay for products and services. For example, we now work with Thomas Cook to offer their customers the option to spread out their cost for their dream holiday.

Our expansion into new markets is also picking up pace. We are now serving businesses in Spain, the Netherlands and Sweden. They add to our growing presence in France and Germany. In France we are growing four times faster than when we launched in the UK, driven by customers like Habitat & La Fourchette, and partnerships like Mangopay. In Germany, we are picking up traction with some great customers including rankingCoach, betahaus Hamburg and the soon to launch partnership with accounting software Debitoor.

Whilst I am immensely proud of all of the above, our ongoing growth and success is all down to you, our incredibly supportive and loyal users. This is why my highlight of the year so far is the launch of our new dashboard next month. We’ve used your feedback to make it more intuitive than ever and given it the power and flexibility to grow with your business. It’s been a huge company-wide project and we hope you enjoy using it as much as we enjoyed building it. We look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Want to help us build a new payments network for the internet?
We're hiring

Introducing your new GoCardless dashboard

When we started GoCardless 5 years ago we wanted to make Direct Debit accessible to companies who’d never had access before. We built a product that was simple and intuitive and soon had the privilege of helping thousands of small businesses collect payment.

Then, 2 years ago, some of the UK’s largest companies started using us, and some of our early adopters were growing into large companies themselves. They loved the simplicity of GoCardless but wanted additional power and flexibility. To support them we built GoCardless Pro, with its own dashboard and API.

Now, we're pleased to be able to give everyone access to the GoCardless Pro dashboard. We’ve used your feedback to make it more intuitive than ever, whilst having the power and flexibility to grow with your business:

There are hundreds of improvements in the new GoCardless product, but instead of giving you a full list of every change, here’s a very quick summary of five of our favourite new features:

1. A clearer and easier-to-use dashboard

The first thing you'll notice when you sign in to your new dashboard is the brand new look - it’s had a full makeover and the most important information is now placed front and centre. As soon as you log in to the new dashboard, you’ll get an immediate overview of what you’re owed, how much you’ve collected and what’s currently due. We've also improved the way we show your payments and customers to make this much clearer and easier to use. Get a real-time overview of everything in your account, and easily filter down to the most relevant information.

2. Multiple users: share access to your GoCardless account

With the new GoCardless dashboard, you can share access to your account with other people in your business. Not only can you add multiple users to your account, you’ll be able to individually control their access rights and permissions - for instance, you could give your bookkeeper read-only access so they’ll be able to reconcile payments without making changes to the account.

3. Paylinks: An easier way to take one-off payments

From within your account, you can now create Paylinks - an intuitive and user-friendly way to take one-off payments. With Paylinks you have the option to collect additional payments from the same customer without the customer needing to add their bank details each time.

4. Events log: Keep track of the status of your payments

We’ve introduced a new Events tab from which you can see a complete timeline of your account’s activity, or simply use the filters to narrow down the search to the activity type and date range you’re looking for. You can also click on any item to view a more detailed description of the event such as why a mandate couldn’t be set up or a payment failed.

5. Improved search and filtering: Find the information that matters to you

We’ve built out the search functionality to include payment amounts, charge dates, payment descriptions, metadata references... pretty much anything that can be found in your dashboard! If that wasn’t enough, you can even list multiple terms at once to to filter your results more effectively and find what you’re looking for even faster.

When will I see the new GoCardless dashboard?

The new dashboard will be rolled out from April 2016. We’ll be in touch with all merchants via e-mail over the next few weeks with further information about the upgrade.

As we move all our merchants over to the new dashboard, we want to make sure we keep iterating and improving our product. In the new dashboard, there’s a built-in feedback tool that’s never more than one click away - you’ll always be able to find this in the bottom-left corner of your dashboard. Any comments and feedback you have on the dashboard will be hugely appreciated by the team and will help us to shape the product going forward.

Through the rest of 2016, we have ambitious plans to continue building the best product for taking recurring payments online both in the UK and further afield. As we strive to create a new payment network for the internet, we’ll continue pushing forward with new features and updates shaped by your feedback.

Getting started with the new dashboard

We know that change can sometimes feel a bit scary, but we promise you, this is an easy and worthwhile upgrade.

We’ll inform you ahead of time about exactly when you’ll be upgraded to your dashboard. This upgrade won’t require any work on your behalf: all of your customers, payments, and account information will be moved over automatically to the new dashboard. Once upgraded, just login as normal and you can start using your new and improved GoCardless dashboard.

To help you better get a feel of the new dashboard before upgrading, you can watch the short video demo at the beginning of this blog post.

We’ve also put together a comprehensive FAQ that will answer your questions about using the new dashboard. Finally, as always, you can contact our team for any questions you have either about using the new product or about your GoCardless account. If you have any queries, please drop us an email to [email protected] or you can give us a call on 020 7183 8674.

Thank you!

We also want to say a huge thank you to all of our merchants who have helped us to get to where we are today. We honestly couldn’t have done this without each and every one of you. The new dashboard is a major milestone for GoCardless, and we hope we can continue to delight you as we make further improvements to our service.

in Business

Enterprise Nation StartUp 2016

We had the privilege of being a part of Enterprise Nation StartUp 2016 in London on Saturday 9th January... and it was an absolute blast!

The doors opened at 9am, and it took very little time for the rooms and corridors of the Canary Wharf venue to fill up with ticket holders. More than 3,000 entrepreneurs attended the show, each looking to learn as much as they can in the pursuit of getting their startup businesses off the ground.

Set across multiple floors, the event offered a wide variety of talks, panel discussions, workshops, and more. The aim was ensuring that the budding entrepreneurs attending the show would receive a plethora of advice to help them succeed in their journeys.

Our own hub of activity was positioned nicely amongst the other sponsors of the event. Our stand, which was run by a number of volunteers from across the GoCardless team, was glittered with limited edition GoCardless merchandise that would become increasingly famous as the day wore on.

Startup 2016 Event StartUp 2016 Event

Inspiring keynotes from the main stage

The day kicked off with a warm introduction from Enterprise Nation’s very own Emma Jones. Shortly after, Oliver Sewell took centre stage to begin the day’s masterclasses with an insightful talk on boosting your business through Facebook.

This led onto one of our highlights of the day, “Make or break: How I’ve built my start-up”. This was chaired by Gary Turner from Xero, one of our accounting software partners. The consensus amongst the three panelists was that managing your company finances digitally is key for keeping on top of your business as it grows. Cloud-based accountancy platforms will become vital as your company grows and their key advice in this regard was to start using one from day one. Not only will all your financial records be in one place (making it far easier when the taxman comes knocking), you’ll also be in a good position to scale to the next level.

By noon time, the event was in full swing and each and every floor was buzzing with activity. A large crowd had gathered in preparation for Nicola, our VP of Marketing, and her panel discussion with Andy Stephenson and Oliver Bridge, the founders of Weekend Box Club and Cornerstone. Their panel discussion was on “how to build a subscription business” with both entrepreneurs sharing their advice on launching and growing a subscription business on a small budget. They also discussed some of their key challenges along the way.

This discussion paved the way for our highlight of the day, where our founder Hiroki Takeuchi took to the main stage alongside Mark Preason, founder of MyVoucherCodes and Amber Atherton, founder of My Flash Trash. The three of them had an open discussion on what they had learnt building a million dollar startup.

Startup 2016 Keynote StartUp 2016 Keynote

Speaking to entrepreneurs at the GoCardless stand

Spending a day speaking to entrepreneurs and business owners at the GoCardless stand was an absolute joy. At StartUp 2016, we were demoing the new GoCardless dashboard and showing visitors how they could transform the normally painstaking task of collecting payments into a simple, automated process. After answering all the questions fired at us like there was no tomorrow, I could have sworn we transformed into Jedis... well, Direct Debit Jedis anyway.

Not wanting to miss any opportunities, we made the most of the brief periods we were free by convincing the other sponsors across the floor to model our merchandise for a quick photo (a few of which may have been casually leaked to Twitter). ¯\(ツ)

The occasional [read frequent] fluttering of eyelids in the direction of the Direct Line stand opposite may have also occurred – we couldn’t resist… they had a popcorn machine!

Startup 2016 Stand StartUp 2016 Stand

Keeping an eye on your finances

As the day drew to a close, some of us made our way back down to the ground floor for the final keynote panel discussion of the day – “How to keep financially fit and protected throughout the year”.

What shone through in this final discussion is that staying on top of your finances from the start is absolutely crucial if you want to see your startup to reach long-term success. Too many startups founded only on great ideas have fallen by the wayside as a result of poor finances or not keeping an eye on their cash flow.

Turning great ideas into successful long-term businesses

One of the goals of Enterprise Nation and StartUp 2016 is making sure budding entrepreneurs have the knowledge and tools they require to ensure a great idea comes to fruition in the market.

GoCardless has always been proud to support start-up businesses and we can all agree unequivocally that we felt proud to support StartUp 2016 (it definitely more than made up for the 7am alarm on Saturday morning). We finished the day feeling incredibly inspired by the people we met, the talks we attended and the general spirit of innovation and creativity.

Thank you to everyone who attended and best of luck to each and every one of you taking the plunge into startup life in 2016. From the whole team at GoCardless, we wish you every success in your new venture!

in Engineering

Update on the GoCardless service outage

Summary

On Thursday, we experienced an outage of 1 hour and 40 minutes that affected all our services. During that time you may have seen brief service recovery but for the most part our service was unavailable.

What happened

On Tuesday 19th, at 22:00 UTC, we received a notification from our infrastructure provider scheduling emergency maintenance in one of their Amsterdam datacentres on the next day at 23:00 UTC.

They were hoping to fix a recurring issue with one of the routers by performing a reboot of the chassis pair. As part of this maintenance they also planned to perform firmware upgrades, for an estimated total downtime of approximately 20 minutes.

Since our outage in July 2015 we have been working on getting each component of our infrastructure to span multiple data centres so that we can gracefully handle this kind of datacentre-wide failure. All the infrastructure on the critical path for our service was, as of January 21st, available in multiple locations, except for our database.

On Wednesday 20th, in the morning, the Platform Engineering team gathered and put together a plan to migrate the database to a new datacentre before the start of the maintenance.

On Wednesday 20th, at 22:00 UTC, we decided that the plan was not viable to complete before the maintenance. During the day several complications prevented us properly testing the plan in our staging environment. We made the call to take the full 20 minutes of downtime rather than cause more disruption by executing a plan that we could not fully prepare.

On Thursday 21st, at 00:25 UTC, our provider performed the reboot of the chassis, which instantly caused the GoCardless API and Pro API to be unavailable.

At 00:49 UTC, they announced that the maintenance was over. Our services started slowly recovering.

At 00:50 UTC, our monitoring system alerted us that some of our services were still unavailable. We immediately started troubleshooting.

At 01:00 UTC, a scheduled email announcing the end of the maintenance window was sent incorrectly.

At 02:00 UTC, we discovered the issue. Our database cluster is setup in such away that any write to the database, for example, creating a payment, needs to be recorded on two servers before we say it’s successful. Unfortunately during the maintenance, the link between our primary and our standby server broke. That meant that no write transactions could go through until that link was restored. Also, since the writes were blocking, we quickly exhausted our connection slots and read requests started failing too. After a few seconds the writes would time out and we would start having successful read requests again. That explains why we were sporadically up during that time. Once we brought our cluster back together, requests started flowing through again.

By 02:05 UTC, all services were fully operational.

Final words

We are following up with our infrastructure provider to figure out why they had to perform maintenance in that datacentre at such short notice.

We have now provisioned a standby cluster in another datacentre so that we are able to migrate to a new datacentre with very little downtime in case this happens again. Long term, as we said in our last blog post, we have plans for how we can further minimise disruption in the case of datacentre-wide failure. This project is the main focus of the Platform Engineering team for the next six months.