Yes, you read it right! We don’t have a sales team and still, we are acquiring new customers every month and growing. You know must be wondering if I am stating a fact or a hypothetical story.
So let me take you back to Jan’18.
My partner and I analyzed our growth and identified that we were adding 25 new customers each month on an average with ease. We only had one sales rep back then and adding more fire to the sales team was the best thing we identified. We thought we found the formula to scale up and decided to increase our sales team size from 1 to 2 and then to 3 in no time.
Expectations were clear that “more salespeople means more customers and more customers means higher revenue”.
But this didn’t happen! Yes, our formulae failing. Instead, we started seeing a negative growth and our average new customers count fell to 12/month. We were doing everything to help our sales team to win deals and scale up.
Our to-do lists included
– Adding new features frequently
– Created a smart pricing
– Improved our customer support capability
– Simplified our process and communication protocol
However, still the returns were negative and this started to worry us.
Why are we still failing was a question I was asking myself around August’18.I initiated my analysis by October after giving time to define it is an issue or a short term trend.
I zeroed down to the following inferences after speaking to prospects and customers
- Point of Contact Was Irrelevant
Our users were not worried about the point of contact instead were more interested in our offering. The need to have account managers was not there. We had assumed this, so expected our sales team to close a deal and then manage it later. We over hired assuming there will be too much of work.
- Forced Demos/Calls
We felt that we should know our customers in and out so always forced our leads to get on a call to discuss synergies. Even if someone asked, “How can I pay?”, instead of sending them the payment link, we instead forced them to get on a call to discuss their organization and payment plans. We went over the top too and decided to remove the pricing page and made it mandatory to talk to our sales team before onboarding.
- Incentive Structure Mismatch
Incentives structure is an important factor for every sales personnel while choosing the organization they wish to work with. We identified it early so did comprehensive research and came up with an enticing incentive plan. This was loved by our team members but later we realized that it was more aligned towards an individual and not with our overall organizational goal. Our focus was onboarding and not retaining.
- Decisions Were Based On Apprehensions
All of us grew learning that a “Rockstar Sales Team” is a must-have for conversions and revenue growth and we went ahead on our mission to create one without understanding our business and customers. We didn’t dig our data points and instead relied on a notion which was passed by the world.
Make The Change Or Die
So, after a year of running to create a Rockstar sales team, here we were in Nov’18 with negative growth. We knew that a big change is inevitable but what to change and from where to start was not clear. So, I sat down and listed down the options ahead of us
- Change the sales incentive structure
- Bring a matured sales manager
- Hire a new team with rectified objectives
- Train the existing sales team as per our goals
I thought again about hiring and after connecting with few potential replacements felt our existing team were good sales personnel and anyone who comes on board may not add much value. So ruled out this change.
I took a step back and started getting on calls with everyone who requested a demo. My first learning was both of our products Kommunicate.io and Applozic were a developer based product. The decision making often came from the engineering team where the sales team didn’t much have much to say but only act as a postman by solving their queries using our tech team.
Time To Take Decision and Act
I was now clear that the need of the hour was
– Move our focus from sales to product
– Reach out to developers community with better communication through the right channels
– Be more proactive on our customer support front
So, getting rid of the sales team was the best bet I had. However, there was a big apprehension at the back of my mind. Wherever I looked around I saw everyone focused on their sales team. It was one of those things which looked like a “Must Have” in order to survive and grow. I too believed in it, because I never saw organizations running without it.
One fine day, while I was renewing one of our subscriptions from a SaaS provider I had my moment of truth. I realized that while subscribing to SaaS products we never spoke to any of the sales team. Instead, we generally reached out to their support team both pre and post subscribing. I started to list all of our subscriptions and listed the reason to buy and our onboarding process against each.
We were using the services of a range of tools such as:
- Skype international call
- Google Cloud
I started speaking to other team members involved in making the decision too. My conclusion got validated as none of us took a demo or connected with any of their sales rep before subscribing. All of us reached out to their helpdesk with the specific use case. If you are thinking that we went only ahead with basic plans then let me correct, we had subscribed to their top plans for the majority of them. In fact, for Stripe, we had paid more than $30k, yet we never felt the need to take a demo or connect with their sales team.
From our discussion, we identified the reasons for purchase as
- High market acceptability
- Simplified experience supported with a cool design
- Product with great features
- Reliable customer support
That’s all that mattered for most for us. If these factors were satisfactory we went ahead to become their customers. So, the outcome was now more simple for us. We got our direction for product and engineering team both.
We now had to focus on
- Adding value to our customers with interesting content and easy documentation
- Develop a more dynamic product team to support existing tech and design team
- Pump up our customer support with better tools
So, these are our results post a month of the focused approach
- Our sales started increasing, yes we are now positive on Y-O-Y basis and M-O-M basis, 36 new customers in a single month
- We reduced our operational cost, so became more profitable
- Product and engineering team started taking customer calls, only if customers requested
- Engineering team started having a dialogue in their language directly to decision makers
and started listing their priorities as per customers needs
- Marketing team now understood what customers need much better. They went ahead to revamp their website to talk in their language
Yes, growth figures were now in the green area instead. Though we have just started, we can already see the impact. We know that the gap between customers and execution masters ( designers, developers) have reduced. We are now on our journey to make an impact by adding value continuously.
PS: Our products are inbound driven and come under the B2D category, having a sales team might be important for your business, it wasn’t for us. You will have to test it out and see the results to figure out what works for your business.