Hey everyone, today I share the mic with Mike Dudas, co-founder and CRO of Button, a company that helps retailers realize the power of mobile by allowing seamless interconnected services to complement relevant products.
Tune in to hear how Mike has leaned on a unique combination of sound business and dumb luck to create a habitual winner, what the team did to grow Button 10X in 1 year and drive tens of millions in revenue within 3 years, how a fortunate change in Uber’s business model allowed Button to succeed early on, and the process they go through to find, court and hire the right people.
Download podcast transcript [PDF] here: How Mike Dudas Grew His Mobile Monetization Biz Button to $10M in Revenue in 3 Years TRANSCRIPT
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If I had to guess, I’d say that your hiring process goes something like this: you throw a job posting on Craigslist, Monster, Indeed or LinkedIn and expect people to come through. You go through a bunch of resumes, call up some of the better candidates, then invite your favorites to an interview. You might even do some reference checks, and then you make the job offer right there.
I think most of us can agree that there are ways we can improve this incredibly-important-but-quickly-becoming-outdated hiring process.
So how do you make this old way better? Let’s talk about the concept of trial week.
Most companies do a 3-month trial, but trial week is even more high stakes. Have your final candidates come in and work for you for a week. Put them on your team and see how they work, interact and communicate.
Basecamp does something very similar for hiring. After looking at resumes, they interview candidates using Skype. And they take their time with these chats. Let’s say you’re at a conference or you’re traveling—you chat for a bit, then travel a little, then a couple hours later you can come back and continue the conversation. It’s not even like you’re driving them through an interview process; it’s more like a long email chain, just through Skype.
When it seems like there’s a fit, they move a candidate into a trial week.
After the interview process, they might say, “Hey, we’ll pay you for a small project.” This lets Basecamp continue to evaluate all the small nuances of a candidate, like how well they communicate with your team, how well they do their work, how well they fit with the culture, etc. They also compensate these people so they’re not wasting their time.
When we put somebody through trial week, we think about how they are as a fit within our team. Just because somebody produces great work doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a long-term fit. If they’re annoying, even if they do the work well, they’re not the right fit. If they spend all their time thinking about themselves, their output and their performance rather than the goals of the team, they’re not the right fit.
Now let’s say we’re looking for a PPC person. We’ll run them through an interview process, talk to them a little bit, and then we’ll give them read-only access to an ads account and ask things like, “What would you fix about this? What opportunities do you see? What are we missing out on?”
We want to see if this person can open our minds up a little more, if they’re going to teach us something, and if they actually know what they’re talking about. Because there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors in marketing interviews.
Let’s say you’re looking to hire an operations person. You can run them through a situational interview with a trial week. You can also have them do the actual work. Maybe have them look at your P&L or your balance sheet and have them make some recommendations. Give them some homework, too.
I’ll outline all the situations to a candidate and ask them, “What would you do here?” Then, afterwards, “Based on this, what kind of project do you think you can work on where we can evaluate whether you’re a fit or not?”
The tricky part is figuring out the right workload balance. You want to have people complete projects that show their true skills. But at the same time, you don’t want to make it too extensive since a lot of people that you’re interviewing have full-time jobs. In some cases we’ve found really good people, but they don’t have the time to work on projects.
All in all, I can’t stress to you how important trial week is. Just recently, I almost made a mistake in hiring. This person did really well on the video interview and wrote an in-depth PowerPoint presentation. Then we put him through trial week and the communication skills were just not there. There were a lot of different issues.
We avoided hiring someone that looked really good on paper but wasn’t actually the right fit thanks to the trial week process we had in place.
This post was adapted from Eric’s Facebook Live videos: Growth 90 – DAILY live broadcasts with Eric Siu on marketing and entrepreneurship. Watch the video version of this post:
Ok, first of all, what the heck is a marketing growth experiment?
Growth experiments are tests that you’re running on your business, ideally every week, and they’re basically what’s going to help your business grow in the long run.
Most of your experiments probably aren’t going to work, but the idea is that because you have this process in place, your business is going to grow over the long term. Some of these tests are going to pay off big time, and those you can double down on. That’s how you get huge dividends in the long term.
To give you an example of growth experiments, we’re constantly iterating on Single Grain. For example, we just came up with a new video where visitors opt in for a lead magnet, like a checklist or an e-book.
And as soon as they opt in, they’re taken to a video that tells them, “Hey, before you go, we’re offering a 15-minute call.” They can take us up on that offer and sign up for a call by filling out a quick questionnaire to see if they’re qualified or not.
We’re trying this out because we think it will increase our free consultation conversion rate. But we don’t know that for a fact, it’s just a hypothesis. In other words, this is a growth experiment.
Now let’s say this works and we’re getting an additional ten free consultations per month. That’s totally worth it, because the effort we put into creating this video and popup, even the effort of the actual consultation calls, is negligible.
First and foremost, you should be using a tool called GrowthHackers Projects. You don’t have to pay for it, you can just sign up for the free trial. In fact, once you see how it works you can just start tracking this sort of stuff manually in a simple spreadsheet.
So here’s an example from somebody on my team who’s using GrowthHackers Projects. Raghav tells me that if we add an explainer video to the homepage that talks about how Single Grain is different from other marketing agencies, this will help boost our consultation calls by 20%.
Learn More: How to Craft a High Converting Explainer Video
Here’s the cool thing. You get to rate your tests in terms of:
When you hit “test idea,” it’s going to run that test and show you, by the end, how accurate your hypothesis was.
This year at Single Grain we’re requiring our average monthly spend for paid advertising clients to be $30,000 over 90 days and we changed a title description on the homepage. So we’re going to wait 30 days before looking at Google Search Console to see what difference this makes. We’re also running some Facebook tests and other tests.
Another great thing is the leaderboard. You can see how many ideas there are, how many tests have been run, how many wins there are from different people on your marketing team. You can see how active your team is and then you can talk about it during your weekly team sprints.
Talk about who actually had the most tests this week. Who had the most wins? Those people will be rewarded and compensated for doing well. You can also go to GrowthHackers.com and pull ideas from there and then import into here. That way you just have a lot of different things that you’re testing for all the time.
For Single Grain, we try to run at least three different tests per week. And we track them over time during weekly team meetings.
For example, let’s say we want to do a marketing campaign grader tool, like an ROI tool or widget. Once we decide to do this, we’ll e-mail blast people who are really interested in our services. It’s an experiment we’ve been trying. We’ve been retargeting people who visit our services page 3+ times and the CPA is much better.
Surprisingly (or perhaps unsurprisingly), we also run a lot of tests on our jobs and team pages. I’ve mentioned before that once you’re a certain size, your job as the CEO is to just keep hiring the best people for growth.
Finally, we’re experimenting with tripwire offers where we might put all of our podcast episodes into little USB drives. The idea is that as long as we’re continually iterating, we’re going to succeed on maybe 1 out of 12 tests. Even if you get 1 win out of 20 experiments, that’s still good!
Learn More: How to Conduct Effective Interviews to Get the Best Hire
Brian Balfour, who used to be the VP of Growth at HubSpot, talks about how to run a weekly growth meeting that get results. HubSpot is very good about sharing these kinds of meeting templates.
Shaun Ellis also has a good template. You want to look at these templates and then figure out what kind of cadence makes the most sense for your business and your goals. Then you start executing on a process, repeat it over and over, and then you’re going to start growing.
Even in the early days, when it’s just one or two people and it probably doesn’t make sense to do this all the time, you want to start getting in the habit of running these growth experiments. That way your whole organization understands, or at least a good portion of your team understands, that growth is no joke. You can’t just do it once and then come back to it later.
Growth is a commitment that you have to come back to over and over again.
And if you do, great things will happen.
This post was adapted from Eric’s Facebook Live videos: Growth 90 – DAILY live broadcasts with Eric Siu on marketing and entrepreneurship. Watch the video version of this post:
Hey everyone! Today’s episode is with Mark Roberge, Chief Revenue Officer of the HubSpot Inbound Sales Division. He is also the author of The Sales Acceleration Formula, a book on how to build a winning sales organization.
Today we’ll be talking about how Mark helped grow HubSpot from zero to $100 million in revenue by coining the term inbound marketing, how he successfully applied his data background to sales, and why you should start blogging before you build your product.
Download podcast transcript [PDF] here: How HubSpot Skyrocketed from $0 to $200M By Combining Inbound Marketing + World Class Sales Training TRANSCRIPT
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Recently, I was reading through HubSpot’s book The Sales Acceleration Formula and I found it to be incredibly insightful. For context, HubSpot is a customer relationship management tool that used data, technology, and inbound selling to go from $0 to $100 million in revenue. They’re now a public company.
This is a must-read if you’re looking to build a great sales team.
One particularly interesting section in the book was on Forced Hiring. HubSpot Chief Revenue Officer Mark Roberge says that it’s by far his most effective hiring tactic and after reading it, I felt compelled to take action.
The basic gist of it is going through your LinkedIn contacts and combing through their connections to find what you’re looking for.
I’ve broken this down into a simple-to-follow process that you can put to use almost immediately after reading this.
Let’s get started!
Who Are the Most Influential People of Your Connections?
The first thing to do is to make a list of your most influential connections in LinkedIn. These could be people who have 500+ connections or people that you know have a big network outside of LinkedIn.
One important step is to separate relationships into two buckets: friends and acquaintances.
The point of doing this is to increase efficiency when asking for a referral. Your ask will be more effective many times over. I’ll show you what I’m talking about in a bit.
For me, I’m going to choose Neil Patel because I know he’s a big influencer in the digital marketing world. He would be in my ‘Friends’ bucket.
For this exercise, we’re going to find paid advertising specialists. I’m feeling good about this because there’s definitely some great digital marketers connected to Neil.
Search Those Connections
This part is for your ‘Friends’ bucket. If you did not make a ‘Friends’ bucket, go and add your closest friends/influencers on LinkedIn and come back to this later.
The next thing to do is to click on the ‘connections’ link in the bottom right corner of the person’s profile:
A list appears, but you’ll immediately see that there’s a lot of noise in this list. Remember, we’re looking for a paid advertising specialist, so we need to narrow it down by searching for the right title:
Let’s try searching for ‘paid advertising specialist’ and see what we get:
This looks a bit tedious at first glance (having to click through multiple pages). Ugh, right?
Let’s come up with more variations of this title:
Pro tip: make sure you use quotations to target the keyword phrase, e.g. “PPC Manager”. If you don’t do this, you risk getting a lot more noise in your results. Here’s what I’m talking about.
The wrong way (notice the 3,316 results):
The right way (53 results… much better):
Now to really speed things up, click on the ‘advanced search’ link.
Don’t want to copy all these names manually? You can get the Scraper browser extension for Google Chrome and scrape them all at once.
Put your list of names into a spreadsheet for safekeeping.
Rinse and repeat for all your influencers until you are satisfied.
Now, onto the outreach portion. We’re all looking to save time, so here are some templates that you can swipe and deploy. First, let’s start with friends.
For friends, it’s much easier to ask because you already have a relationship and a bond established. Here’s an example of a template that can be used:
I hope all is well. We’re looking for a Paid Advertising Manager and it looks like you have a few good connections on LinkedIn.
Who do you think is exceptional in this list?
[LIST OF NAMES]
Acquaintances can be a little trickier because, well, you don’t really have much of a relationship with them to begin with. You might be LinkedIn friends with them after talking for two minutes at a conference, but that’s about it.
Here’s a template I just recently used:
I hope all is well! I wanted to reach out because I’m looking for a [JOB TITLE] to help with [RESPONSIBILITIES]. This would mainly involve [TASKS]. Do you know of anyone who might be interested?
Thanks in advance!
It’s short and to the point.
As a bonus: you can also use this template to reach out cold to individuals who you think might be a fit. In that scenario, you’re obviously hoping that they’ll volunteer themselves, but if they have someone else in mind, that’s not a bad consolation price.
Pro tip: When e-mailing individuals, try using a tool like Outreach.io for mass reachout. Outreach.io will use templates that you set and automatically follow up with people. Here’s an introduction to Outreach.io.
I did a a test on LinkedIn and and via e-mail with NO follow ups. Here’s what happened:
Pretty good traction for a small test. Granted this is a small sample size but this just goes to show you what the potential is for this tactic.
When someone who takes a company from $0 to $100M and reveals their most effective hiring tactic, that person is worth listening to. This is just one of those ‘doh! why didn’t I think of that!’ tactics that slipped by me. But no matter—I’m glad I found it and I’ll be continuing to refine it over time.
Two last thoughts on how to optimize this in the future:
I can’t believe how quickly this year has flown by.
First of all, I want to thank you all for being loyal readers and listeners. About two years ago, I decided to start Growth Everywhere as a way to pay it forward to people looking to learn about business and personal growth.
I’ve learned a lot since then (and have made a TON of mistakes).
This will be my first year doing an annual review. I find that whenever I write down recaps of the past year, it helps me see how much I’ve actually accomplished.
Who knows, I might even start doing this monthly.
Here are the Growth Everywhere highlights of 2015:
How to Find Fulfilling Work: The Framework by Best Selling Author of ‘So Good They Can’t Ignore You’ Cal Newport
Cal Newport is the author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You and the brain behind the popular blog Study Hacks, which helps decode the patterns of success in both school and the working world. He’s been featured in major publications like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and the New York Post.
The biggest takeaway I got from this interview is how to do deep work. Cal is exceptional at eliminating distractions (he doesn’t really touch social media) and hones in on his craft meticulously. We can all learn a thing or two from that.
How Foundr Magazine Grew Its Instagram Account From 0 to 300,000 Followers In Just 10 Months
Nathan Chan is the founder of Foundr Magazine, an app-based subscription publication that features high-quality interviews with entrepreneurs like Richard Branson, Seth Godin, Tim Ferriss, and Barbara Corcoran.
Beyond revealing his process to actually land these interviews with such seemingly hard-to-get celebrity-level entrepreneurs, he also reveals the step-by-step process he went through to grow Foundr Magazine’s Instagram account from zero to 300,000 subscribers in just 10 months.
This is my favorite interview because of all the actionable insights that Nathan shares. He doesn’t hold back; he gives the exact numbers, tools, and tactics to grow your Instagram account.
10 Steps To Creating A Successful Sales Team From Scratch
This is a post I wrote two years ago and it’s the gift that keeps on giving. It’s around 2,000 words and has a lot of statistics and links to outside sources.
Take a look at this graph:
You can see that the majority of traffic coming to this post is from Google. The key takeaway here is to write posts that are longer form, actionable, and backed by statistics and links.
You’re not always going to hit a winner like this one, but if you keep doing it over and over, you’re going to build compounding organic traffic over time.
Content Expansion: How To Maximize Your Content
This is a post on content distribution. There’s a ton of content on the web on the importance of content marketing and how to excel at it, but I found that there’s a lack of actionable information around distribution—the second most important thing after creating a great content piece.
I spent over four weeks writing this post (more than 4,000 words) and I’m happy with the results. More importantly, this is a documented process I can show to my team members in the future so they’ll know exactly what I’m looking for when it comes to distribution.
The Obstacle Is The Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph
I’m just finishing this book right now and I think it’s a must read for anybody. Author Ryan Holiday gives many examples on how to turn trials into triumphs and makes it easy to understand how stoicism can help us succeed in life.
We ALL have to deal with a myriad of problems every day. This book teaches you how to respond to them.
I’ve read Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations and while I think it’s a great read, it’s not particularly easy. The Obstacle Is The Way makes everything simple to understand and practical.
DotComSecrets: The Underground Playbook for Growing Your Company Online
For a large part of 2015, I spent my time focused on moving to a new e-mail service provider and learning more about marketing funnels. This is THE book to educate yourself on how you can build out a funnel for your business.
You might be thinking, ‘But funnels are aggressive and slimy, so they would never work for my business!’.
Not entirely true. You can take the fundamentals of this book and apply them in a way that won’t damage your brand.
All it takes is a little creativity.
This is the best ‘hack’ I’ve started implementing in 2015. When I go to the gym in the morning, I no longer listen to music. It’s all 100% podcasts. On 2x speed. Double the learning while I get stronger? That’s like cheating.
Here are my favorite podcasts:
Derek Halpern Drops Knowledge On How He Built A 300,000 Subscriber E-mail List
This is another incredibly actionable interview I did…this time with Derek Halpern. The basis of building a 300K e-mail subscriber list? Distribution. This is one of the reasons I wrote my post on ‘content expansion.’ You’ll love the energy from this interview.
I did a survey to see what type of content you’re most interested in. Based on your input, I will be producing more content around content marketing, SEO, conversion rate optimization, and advertising in 2016.
Here are the results:
In terms of lessons – Wow. Where to start? I learned A LOT in 2015. I tried a bunch of new things and had some successes and some failures. But it’s all about the lessons you learned along the way.
In-person dinner – At Digital Marketer’s Traffic & Conversion conference in February, I hosted my first dinner that included a few marketing notables such as John Lee Dumas, Pat Flynn, Rick Mulready, Jaime Tardy, and friends of mine. Being able to connect in person will always trump online. I plan to host more of these in the future to develop actual relationships (instead of Skype contacts ?
Spoke at VC event – Although I spoke at a few events during the year, the most notable one was the FirstMark Marketing Summit in NYC. FirstMark Capital is a VC firm that has invested in companies such as Spotify and Pinterest. The audience was a very savvy group and I met people from SAP and Pepsi. Was also great to catch up with Brian Balfour from HubSpot, Mick Hollison from InsideSales, and Clark Varberg from InvisionApp.
You can watch my talk here:
APHB – My wearing out list! Most of you on my e-mail list know that I launched a hiring course this year. This was my first foray into courses and I can say this was a humbling learning experience. The product is great and has a lot of utility but I made the mistake of trying to go for the transaction too aggressively. I also wore out my list by shoving the hiring webinars down their throats. The truth is my audience is interested in marketing content and I ignored that fact. Moving forward, I’ll be tweaking this product to make it work in 2016.
Growth Bites – Growth Bites was a daily 5-10 minute audio segment of just me talking on the Growth Everywhere podcast. I shared thoughts on book recommendations, tools to use, how to deal with certain business situations, and more. This was growing at a solid pace but I just became inconsistent with it. My goal is to convert some of these successful episodes into longer-form pieces in 2016 while also bringing back a similar format to Growth Bites.
Summit – The next ‘course’ that I did was an online conference called The Growth Summit. This is where I brought together industry experts such as John Lee Dumas, Neil Patel, Hiten Shah, Steli Efti, and many others to teach the latest in marketing. Typically, summits that are more consumer focused (e.g. weight loss) do really well because they’re very broad. I didn’t think about that in this scenario and we only did OK for the time invested.
Skillshare content marketing course – Skillshare reached out in August and offered to fly to my home to do a course on content marketing. As of December 22, 2015, the course is live!
If you want to access the course absolutely free, just click here.
Currently, I already have 1,269 students and a 100% rating, so this will continue to grow over time. I’m amazed by the distribution power of Skillshare and will consider doing more courses with them in 2016.
2016 is all about the year of content. I’m calling it ‘Content Blitz 2016’! I’ve improved my processes for both Growth Everywhere and Single Grain where I can now focus on doing the things I love: getting better at marketing and sharing my learnings with you all.
Some of my goals:
If you have any thoughts on how I can serve you better, just e-mail me at email@example.com or leave your thoughts in the comments below!
Hey everyone, today we’re talking with Steli Efti, founder of Close.io – a sales software platform that has communication at its core.
He’s got an inspiring story that started out with buying a one-way plane ticket from Europe to Silicon Valley, and his insights on sheer hustle and fighting to make things happen are definitely worth listening to.
How a High School Dropout Made it Big in Silicon Valley
Originally from Greece, Steli Efti claims he has zero credentials and is totally unemployable. He dropped out of high school to become an entrepreneur, and never returned to formal education again.
He started a few small businesses in Europe that did well, but he heard the call of tech-based Silicon Valley loud and clear. Then, eight years ago, he decided to sell everything and buy a one-way ticket to San Francisco to build a tech startup.
His first business totally flopped. But with a few pivots, the second business is what eventually morphed into Close.io, which is incredibly successful.
Where Close.io Came From
Originally, Steli started a company called Elastic Sales (the first version of his second company), which was an outsourced sales business for venture-backed startups in Silicon Valley. They did B2B sales for around 200 companies, but didn’t have any sales software they felt they could rely on to do their jobs as efficiently as possible.
So, with a true entrepreneurial spirit, they built their own software and never intended for it to be anything public. Eventually though, their sales people showed the software to other sales people. The sales people who saw it wanted it so badly that they started calling and emailing Elastic Sales to figure out how they could buy the product.
In January 2013, they released Close.io, which works as a CRM, but has communication (calls and emailing) at the core of the application, empowering sales people to communicate more and better.
If You Want to Outsource Your Sales, Make Sure You Can Sell First
Steli says that outsourcing sales can work really well, but most companies do it way too early and/or they outsource things they can’t figure out how to do on their own.
He says before you outsource your sales, you need to know the process and that it more or less works. You don’t have to have a perfect or fully documented process, but you do need to be able to verbally tell someone what to do.
Otherwise, if you expect a sales outsourcing company to solve all your sales problems for you, it’s like hiring an app development company to develop a hot social app for you, without giving them any of the background or know-how to do so. They only know how to physically build an app, not how to make something viral.
To be successful in outsourcing your sales, Steli has two pieces of advice:
How is Close.io Different from Salesforce and Other Tools?
According to Steli, Close.io is the only CRM built with communication in mind in that it doesn’t require any manual data entry after you’ve sent an email or done a call – it all gets recorded directly within the app.
It also lets a sales person do insanely detailed searches based on potential customers and the types of communications they’ve had with them – essentially a search engine merged with a sales tool.
Why Close.io Hasn’t Bothered with Outbound Sales Yet
Close.io was initially launched as an experiment, but soon after it launched, its organic growth took off because there was so much demand for it.
As sales professionals, the Close.io team decided that they would improve and perfect their inbound funnel before they started doing outbound sales, but the growth has been so good from inbound leads, they haven’t even gotten around to trying outbound yet.
And even without trying so hard in sales, they’ve got beyond seven figures in revenue, and are in the top 5% to 10% of all SaaS businesses – and they’re only a six-person team.
What It’s Like to Be So Bent on Success that You Only Buy a One-Way Ticket
“I was fairly clueless, to be honest,” said Steli about his decision to sell everything and come to San Francisco with hopes of starting a tech company.
He had confidence that he would be able to figure things out along the way, and even though he eventually did, it was much harder than he initially imagined.
For example, he spent two years raising money for his first startup and only managed $100,000.
But as he caught onto things, life and business got easier. A few years later, it only took him a few weeks to raise $1.5 million.
Training Sales Reps to be Effective From Day One
When Steli was running elastic sales, he said he saw a constant objection to the idea that sales people could be quickly trained to sell a highly complex products to specialized audiences.
But to have reps making effective calls from day one, Steli said he focused their training around the 20% of the knowledge that was needed 80% of the time. It usually didn’t take up more than two pages with 10 to 20 questions.
If a sales rep got a question he didn’t know the answer to during a call, all he had to do was say something like “That’s a good question, and I want to make sure I find you the right answer. I’ll get it from the internal expert and let you know.”
Another important question he had sales reps use to expedite their training and make them more effective was “Why?”
Asking why, even when they knew the answer, was a great way for sales reps to get a better, deeper understanding of their prospects and target audience, empowering them to get ramped up and productive really quickly.
Boosting a Sales Teams’ Morale
Steli says that when a sales teams’ morale dips, they’ll start believing that the product they’re selling doesn’t work, and their results will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
And when that happens, there’s not any amount of script changes, new tactics or strategy approaches that will change their performance. Instead, he says, you need to continually expose them to success to see a difference.
In one company in Berlin that had language-based localized sales teams, the French market was under-perfoming, and the French sales people became convinced that it was because the product didn’t work for the French market.
So instead of trying to convince them otherwise, the company put the best sales guy from the UK market on the French sales team. He still spent his days calling companies in the UK and speaking English, but after the French team saw him crushing it day after day, they started closing more and more deals until their performance was on par with the other teams.
80% of the Hustle (and Reward) is in The Follow-Up
“In business, follow up is truly where winning happens,” said Steli – mostly because true follow-up is so rare.
“Stop making up stories” is Steli’s blunt advice for people that don’t hustle in their follow-up.
He says that most people who initially have a good interaction with a prospect but don’t hear back from them after one or two follow-up attempts make up a story in their mind that the prospect isn’t interested anymore or that they don’t like them for some reason.
Instead, he says, you should just make the assumption that someone who doesn’t respond to you right away is just really busy, so it’s your responsibility to keep staying in touch to give your prospects the power to respond at a time that works well for them.
If they say no, it’s important to respect that, but as Steli says, “You’re not in the business of being liked.”
Besides using Close.io to help with follow-up, Steli suggests a tool called Followup.cc that’s a simple, light-weight tool that lives within your email threads and will help you take your follow-up to the next level. And it’s simple enough that anyone can use it.
Advice to His 25-Year-Old Self
At 25, Steli said he wished he was worrying less about overly-ambitious goals and was more focused on process and breaking things down into simple things he could do every day to develop habits that would allow him to reach success.
He said he lacked consistency at that age, which is one of the key things required to reach greatness in life.
One Must-Read Book
Besides his own books that are sales guides for startups (links below), Steli suggests PayPal Wars by Eric M. Jackson – it’s a book they used to buy for every new hire their company had.
Rather than being written by a journalist or a founder, the book was written by an early employee of PayPal and gives an employee’s perspective of what it’s like to work for a hot new startup.
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Hello and welcome to another edition of Growth Bites. Today we’ll talk about how you can structure your sales compensation. Keep in mind that every company is different in terms of commissions and salaries, so this is a basic framework.
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A few months ago, I was crunching numbers for the company and doing research on how competitors grew and it donned on me – we had to create a sales team. But not a boiler room type of deal where people just pounded the phones, I wanted something that felt more consultative and not as disruptive. I’m not saying cold calling is dead, I’m just saying it has changed.
We had a fundamental problem where only one person was closing deals and that, to me, was a major bottleneck. There was only one problem: I’ve never built a sales team before. Sure, I’ve done sales but putting together a sales team is an entirely different story. But that doesn’t matter because because all it really takes to get something right is tenacity, right?
Here are 10 steps I took to create a manage a sales team that is now humming along:
1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
I talked to my ex-coworker and VP of Sales at Treehouse, Chris Zabaleta. Why did I go with him first? Because we had a relationship established already and I trusted him. He gave me a lot of helpful gold nuggets. I then thought about it some more and said, “Who better to ask than Aaron Ross, the guy who helped SalesForce get its revenues to over $100m?”. Before interviewing Aaron, I asked if he’d be willing to do a video interview because I wanted to pass the advice around – he graciously accepted.
Would I have been able to build a team without getting help from these guys? Definitely. But did they help me accelerate the process? Without a doubt. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
2. Hunker down and do the research. No whining.
With zero knowledge on sales team building, where do you start? For me, it was going to Amazon and seeing which sales books really stood out. Aaron Ross’ book Predictable Revenue is a top seller in the ‘Sales’ category and caught my eye because it covered the topics that I needed help with. I highly recommend it.
I also recommend reading Echosign co-founder Jason Lemkin’s blog SaaStr. It’s based on SaaS sales but the concepts still carry over to service based businesses like mine.
3. Have a good hiring process
When it comes to hiring salespeople, tons of applicants come off as aces. That’s why the process I use for hiring salespeople is a bit different then hiring stars for our client services team.
There’s a few questions that really help me gauge the candidate:
It’s also important that they have some knowledge of the product/service as well. I’d almost prefer to hire someone with more product/service knowledge and no zero experience versus an experienced salesperson with no product knowledge. Reason being I think the ramp up time for pure sales training is shorter.
4. Don’t just fire fast. Fire lightning fast.
Your sales process doesn’t guarantee that every hire you make will be successful. In the sales world, time is a deal killer. This applies to having a low performer on the team as well. If they are dragging along and just don’t seem like the right fit, you need to be quick to pull the trigger on letting them go.
We had someone that we offered the job to and he seemed great on paper. Then he started acting really weird because we gave him a 2 week grace period to start. He started blaming us for the delay and asking us why he couldn’t start earlier. Then he started talking about getting promoted.
Then it occurred to me. He was broke and desperately needed a job.
Desperate people don’t make good salespeople and he just didn’t seem like a cultural fit. He had to go.
Investor Mark Suster said it best here:
Trust me: if you know, you know. If you know, do it now. Things don’t get better. Your “Blink” instincts are right. You won’t patch things up. Delaying the inevitable is not going to make things smoother with your investors, biz dev partners, customers or employees.
There is only one answer: fire fast.
Firing somebody is no different than the other 10,000 decisions you need to make in your company to survive. You free up much needed budget. You free up the org chart to bring in new blood. Almost universally your staff will come out of the wood-works and say, “thank you, he needed to go.”
When people aren’t pulling their weight other members who are know it. And they’re grateful to work in an organization where they’re valued and slackers aren’t.
Managing a sales team is already hard enough. Managing a BAD sales team is even harder obviously.
5. Use ‘must-have’ tools to help your team succeed.
There are a few tools we use to get through the day. They keep us efficient and humming without breaking the bank:
6. Have metrics to hold people accountable to
You have to establish solid KPIs that the entire team understands and follows. Otherwise there’s no accountability. I have my team send me a daily and weekly summary of their sales stats. We also do a monthly stats meeting as well.
We’ll have this automated as we continue to grow but for people that are just starting out, this works just fine. Whether you’re using an outsourced sales team or have it all in-house, this step is non-negotiable.
7. 4 month ramp
It’s tough to have salespeople hit your quota right at the gate so we do a 4 month ramp up period. For example, if our quota is $50,000/mo per rep, it’ll look like this:
8. Give people a base salary
Do I go commission only or pay a base with commission? I talked to a lot of founders about this and went back and fourth but Aaron Ross made a really good point: you want to pay your sales reps so they don’t have to worry about their next check. I’d rather have our guys not worrying about their bills and focusing on bringing in more deals. That peace of mind is important.
9. Communicate. No, seriously. Overdo it.
I’m a believer in remote working so we work remotely 2 days out of the week. That requires a ton of communication and discipline though. I have our team communicate, a lot. Being able to see if we’re doing the right things the right way on a daily basis is powerful.
If something is wrong, I can jump on a quick Google Hangout or an alternative like Skype for Business and work out the problem with my team members instead of letting it sit for days or weeks. Our daily standup e-mails are sent to the entire sales team so people have a quick glance at how they’re doing compared to their peers. It helps generate a little urgency and a little competition as well so that’s an added bonus. If someone is falling behind, they can see it and pick up the slack from there.
Here’s what we use to communicate:
10. Go all out with training
The learning never ends. From creating screencasts to making quizzes to buying sales books for the team, it’s your job to keep them up to date and educated. It’s really a no brainer, better education = better output in the long run. Plus, your team will appreciate you for giving a damn. After all, if you’re running the team it’s your job to make everyone better.
Resources we use to train the sales team:
Although my sales team is off to a good start, I still understand that there’s always more to learn. Stay curious and maintain a beginner’s mind because the truth is this: there’s always someone better than you out there and there’s always someone out there waiting to kick your ass.
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