“What got you here won’t get you there” is a recurring theme in start-up success stories. It’s the realization that the old way of doing business can’t sustain a company’s growth trajectory. This is often a defining moment in a company’s history. In the face of change, start-ups are confronted with two options: 1) to clutch their formulas of success and sink slowly to the bottom of the pack or 2) to evolve their model and process to enable the next stage of growth.
The transition from early-stage rapid growth to at-scale sustained growth is challenging. It requires letting go of “what got you here” and adopting new habits, developing more sophisticated processes and attracting seasoned talent to navigate the complexities of high growth. This in turn means more layers of management, new training tools and the infrastructure to support demand.
Learning from those who have successfully scaled their Saas businesses is a valuable exercise. Here we’ve summarized how three sales executives successfully accelerated the growth of their start-ups.
Mark Roberge, Chief Revenue Officer at HubSpot Sales
Impact: As the first sales hire at HubSpot, Mark increased revenue by over 6000%. He challenged the traditional buyer-seller relationship, which tended to force buyers through the sales process vs. supporting buyers with their buying journey.
How he did it:
- Streamlined outbound sourcing using technology (e.g. web browser plug-in indicates a prospect’s industry/location/revenue, whether that prospect exists in CRM and the company’s connection to a prospect on LinkedIn.
- Leveraged inbound marketing to 1) get in front of customers “in their context” and 2) engage with them around their interests (key to social selling)
- Mapped out the customer’s buying journey and segmented customers based on size, needs and behaviors
- Split the sales organization to specialize in different types of customers – meaning reps became experts in one particular customer profile, understanding and solving for their unique needs.
- Added in a layer of sales management between the executives and sales reps
- Automated processes to hold the team accountable (e.g. daily dashboards were produced to illustrate where a sales rep was against best practice behavior)
- Created programs to improve leadership training and rep mentoring
Dan Shapero, Head of Talent Solutions at LinkedIn
Impact: Dan helped scale LinkedIn’s sales team to more than 1,200 people.
How he did it:
- Split sales team into account acquisition and account success
- Developed separate processes and metrics for each team
- Leveraged an inside sales team for mid-market by serving clients over the phone from regional hubs around the world. Reps could then close business and service clients in a scalable way without the need for in-person visits
Parker Conrad, Founder and CEO of Zenefits
Impact: Zenefits is the fastest growing Saas company ever. At the end of 2014, Zenefits was at just over $20M in run-rate revenue.
How he did it:
- Developed automated processes “one step at a time”, e.g. form-filling…
- Step 1: manually filling out forms
- Step 2: mechanizing the process but manually setting up the automation
- Step 3: Writing software to automate the form-automation process
- Had SDRs report to Marketing to make sure they were all on-message and accountable for delivering leads that AEs could close
- Shipped a half-baked product – recognizing that sometimes you have to sacrifice scalability/product to stay competitive
- Looked for bottlenecks, which were often found in odd places