‘Really insightful and recommended’ was the view of the entrepreneurs who attended the Winning at Customer Development Masterclass

29 October 2018

‘Really insightful and recommended’ was the view of the entrepreneurs who attended the Winning at Customer Development Masterclass

Organised and sponsored by the Innovation Catalyst, a partnership between Barclays Eagle Labs, Henley Business School, Thames Valley Science Park and VitalSix, the Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship delivered the 'Winning at Customer Development' Masterclass on 17 October 2018.

This was the first of eight masterclasses that make up the Eagle Lab Flight Accelerator Programme, launched in autumn 2018 at the Innovation Catalyst. The Accelerator cohort of 20 delegates from 17 early stage companies, covering a variety of sectors, attended for a full day masterclass led by Jurek Sikorski, Executive Director of the Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship and former Sales and Marketing Director of a FTSE company. The Accelerator Programme delegates gained a thorough understanding of selling, learned techniques on ‘how to sell’ and had the selling process from prospecting and pitching to overcoming objections and closing a sale fully explained.

In his talk, Jurek argued that the ability to sell is perhaps the most important skill in business, highlighting that if you cannot sell there is no reason to think that you will succeed in business. Jurek noted that for a business success comes when you make a sale and that selling features in everything we do in life; whether you are persuading your colleague about your great idea for a new product or service or the customer to subscribe to your company’s online service, being able to sell will help you succeed. For an early stage business, selling is what makes the difference and Jurek highlighted that selling skills can be learned and are essential skills for any business’ customer facing staff to have. Jurek summarised by adding that just as essential is a sales strategy that defines how selling activities are to be organised.

Following Jurek’s talk, the masterclass welcomed Jim Malone as a guest speaker. Jim is the VP of Worldwide Sales at Opsview, a Reading based software company specialising in enterprise systems monitoring software for physical, virtual, and cloud-based IT infrastructures, and he gave the audience a revealing insight into how Opsview is delivering ‘customer loyalty’ and achieving greater that 90% renewal rates and a net promoter score of over 85.


Jim highlighted the importance of customer loyalty for businesses like Opsview, emphasising that retention and growth of this revenue is paramount for the continued success and is a key factor in the external valuation of the company. Jim went on to stress that businesses should also consider the longer term value of the customer, as well as the opportunity and profitability of upselling and cross-selling in the future.

Jim also provided a list of the avoidable ways in which customers can be lost, including the failure to provide a product/service which doesn’t address exactly your customer’s actual need and not dealing with problems immediately. Jim made it clear that avoiding these was a key strategy in building loyalty and he closed his talk by sharing a number of other things that Opsview were doing to build customer loyalty, including operating a customer success team and creating a customer value programme and user community. All of these can be measured, giving Opsview the opportunity to monitor these figures and address trends.

On top of the talks by Jurek and Jim, the masterclass included a range of practical exercises ran by Jurek, including an exercise in creating a ‘sales value proposition’ that has strong appeal and persuasion that is focused on what the customer is looking for. Rated as ‘Excellent’ by attendees, the masterclass exemplified how thinking about customer development has changed, creating advantage for the early stage growth orientated business.

Delegates were extremely positive in their feedback on the workshop, with Sagi Barkay, CEO of Dognostica, saying: “I was most impressed by Jurek’s explanation on how we should truly listen to the customers and understand what they need and only then try to emphasise how our product answers to those needs. It was also great to hear that the customer is looking to buy an experience and not just a product.”

Henley Business School is part of the Innovation Catalyst partnership and through the Eagle Flight Accelerator Programme and the Innovation Catalyst events programme and business incubation activity is committed to working with the SME community in the Thames Valley Region for mutual benefit.

Contact and Notes:

Jurek Sikorski

Executive Director, Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship


Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship is part of Henley Business School at the University of Reading which provides a hub for teaching and research in the subject, inspiring students from across the University to embrace, develop and apply their entrepreneurial abilities.

E: jurek.sikorski@henley.ac.uk

W: http://www.henley.ac.uk/research/research-centres/henley-centre-for-entrepreneurship/

Ed Cooper

Director, VitalSix and Innovation Catalyst



VitalSix is a business services company that has the knowledge and know-how to help businesses plan for scale up and secure investment through direct connections to sources of finance and understanding of what investors and corporates look for in opportunities.

E: ed.cooper@vitalsix.co.uk

W: https://www.vitalsix.co.uk/