In a recent company All Hands meeting, our CEO Bart Lorang asked all of us to stand up based on ranges of what FullContact’s monthly recurring revenue (MRR) was the day we started with the company.
I fell into one of the earlier groups and found myself wondering what exactly was our revenue when I joined. So I went searching through my Gmail to find my 1st Daily Biz Dev #’s email.
As it turns out, when I joined FullContact we were a 5-figure MRR business.
At the time I’m writing this, FullContact is now a 7-figure MRR business.
(That’s a whole lot of growth.)
This got me thinking about what we would do differently in our sales organization if we could go back in time and do it all over again.
While an interesting thought experiment, we can’t go back in time to change what we’ve done. That technology doesn’t exist (yet). However, we can share what we have learned with other growth-focused companies. Here are 7 steps to grow your Sales organization and crush your sales goals:
1. Get your CRM right.
Early stage startups and later stage “Growth Companies” do not place enough importance on their CRM.
Sure you can sign up for Salesforce and jump right in to get going right away – but that’s a mistake. Your CRM is your lifeblood as a revenue-generating organization. Set your business up for success. If you need to hire a consulting firm to get your CRM set up right the first time, DO IT! If that isn’t possible, spend the time and energy doing it on your own.
A few important things we’ve learned:
- Make contact fields required. Shitty and incomplete contact data will cost you, your team, and your future reps a ton of time and money.
- In sales you will always lose deals. Stock your CRM with any reason you can think of for why you are losing deals and make a comment section required. Run reports on your closed-lost opportunities often, train your sales team on how to handle these issues or iterate with your product team to improve your offering.
- Do your best to provide lead attribution and document the sources of all your leads. This will help at every stage of your revenue growth journey, especially when it comes to prioritizing where your marketing dollars go.
- Hire Sales Reps that buy into your CRM vision. They get paid a base salary to perform their day to day activities. They get commissions for selling. If they cannot commit to this philosophy, help them find another employer.
2. Agree upon a refined forecasting strategy.
Do not rely upon sales reps to use their gut as a strategy. They will all be wrong. Make everyone on the sales team a part of the process, agree upon the stages, and, most importantly, have these stages align to tangible parts in the sales process.
FullContact uses standard stages such as Pre-qualification (BDRs only), Qualification, Evaluation, Validation and Manage the Close. What is unique is that we have identified 6 goals to help validate progressing an opportunity through our stages. These include:
- Decision Maker ID’d
- Conceptual buy-in or Goal, Need or Issue we can impact
- Source of Urgency
- Budget or Funding process identified to reallocate Funds
- Champion ID’d
- Competition ID’d
By agreeing upon a forecasting strategy and prioritizing goals, we’re able to more effectively qualify leads and close deals.
3. Contracts for most startups are a mess. Get them right.
Here’s a tip: if you didn’t work with an attorney that specializes in SaaS agreements, your contracts are terrible and make your business look unprofessional.
Contracts should not be viewed as only a vehicle to lock in business but should also do a few key things for your business:
- Drive cash flow. Always assume annualized payments. Should your customer not be able pay annually, increase your price for quarterly payments. If they cannot pay quarterly, charge a premium for monthly payments.
- Contracts should also be a tool to help your revenue generating business. When discussing pricing in the sales process set clear expectations that case studies, using your customers in marketing materials etc, will reduce the cost to the customer. Make this a contractual obligation. If a customer is averse to this, increase the cost of your product/service.
Go to the effort to get your contracts right. Your business depends on it.
4. Come up with a target account list and be headstrong about your focus on selling to these accounts.
This tactic is recommended in Chet Holmes’ The Ultimate Sales Machine. It’s crucial for all revenue-generating organizations, but even more important for companies who have yet to fully discover a product-market fit.
- If your organization hasn’t fully figured out your ideal customer profile (ICP), you have a wonderful opportunity. Consider going after key accounts in two to three verticals. After completing your sales process, review the metrics. How long was the sales cycle (the time from getting the prospect engaged to having a signed deal)? Did a certain vertical take longer? If yes, what part of the sales process did they get stuck on?
- Per the point made above, use your new customers to generate case studies or develop use cases for your product.
- Repeat this process and iterate. The better you know and understand your target markets (and accounts), the more effective you’ll be.
5. Get started with business development early.
We added our business/sales development reps (BDRs/SDRs) about a year too late in our revenue story. Don’t make that mistake.
Your first one or two sales hires should be generalists who can handle all aspects of their job: prospecting, presenting, selling, and negotiating. Once your generalists have proven the sales model, and it starts to look repeatable, hire BDRs.
As we grew, our initial model was to continue to hire generalists. But the tough thing about hiring generalists is that there are a limited amount of quality generalist sales professionals.
Generalists – even the best of them – can only handle so many responsibilities. Prospecting for an early stage sales professional can be more than half of their time. Inevitably your generalist sales pro will either miss their prospecting goals or their quota. A failure at prospecting or closing business will cripple your revenue goals. Bringing a BDR or two aboard will continue to drive new revenue.
Furthermore, BDRs can and should be your farm league system. These BDRs will know your business, can ramp up quickly, and cost less than a seasoned account executive.
Pro tip: get a tool to help with finding prospect’s contact data like KiteDesk. This will save your BDRs a LOT of time and frustration.
6. If your average revenue per customer justifies it, have your sales reps meet face to face with their prospects.
At this point your revenue-generating organization should be accomplishing some amazing results. What else can your team do to drive revenue?
On a business trip I met a guy who told me, “If you’re not seeing your prospects in person, someone else is.” He was right.
If you sell to brands you should have a sales professional in NYC. If you sell to technology companies you should have a sales professional in the Bay Area. Should you have the budget, hire an impact sales professional. Hunt for a sales rep who is currently selling to your customers and leverage their address book.
7. Raise your pricing.
Good rule of thumb: If 50% of your qualified prospects aren’t telling you your rates are too high, you are undervaluing your product/service. If you’re not hearing any objections, you should re-evaluate what you’re charging for your products and services.
While there have been 1000’s of books written on how to sell effectively, if you follow the 7 steps above you will dramatically increase your chances of success. We’ve corrected these mistakes at FullContact, and are now growing like crazy.
If you could go back in time, what would you have your company do differently to grow your business? Let us know in the comments.