How we grew sales 10x by spending $0 on a sales army
You might have read my previous article "Don’t raise money. Don’t hire. Don’t build. Sell." There is a bunch of caveats to that advice. Of course, for example, hiring is not categorically bad. Once you have built a running engine with a semblance of a product-market fit, it does make sense to scale it. But how do you do that? Virality is not there for every product.
Hiring a ton of salespeople seems like a very bad idea. It can go wrong in so many ways. What if some of them are not good? What about managing all of these people? Long recruitment process? Firing and turnover? And of course, everything has to be perfect before you hire people. You need to know your target audience really well!
That's what I thought too before I talked to Alex Negrutsa who is also a member on GrowthClub. Alex is running IMSHOP.IO out of Moscow and is working on international expansion. IMSHOP is a platform that helps to build easy-to-start mobile sales channels for retail clients. Their challenge was a typical one: customer acquisition. It was hard to scale marketing, and it seemed like sales can only scale following in the footsteps of marketing. Here is how Alex described thinking about the challenge:
We always thought that sales should scale following marketing lead generation. If we hire more salespeople, which leads are they gonna be working on? And then we met someone who just told us "don't worry about it, they will figure out the leads."
Yes, it's that simple. They went from 1 salesperson a year ago to 5 now. And sales increased accordingly. Not everyone worked out as a perfect match. They had to fire some people. But the results were obvious.
Case Panda Training
As the CEO of Panda Training, I was primarily responsible for sales and didn't believe anyone except me as a founder could do it. But after hearing Alex's story I was inspired to look at the option of hiring a sales army. Could this work for us, too? No, probably not. Such a crazy idea. We need to learn more about our target audience before scaling! What is the focus? Then I met one startup advisor:
Hey, you are growing really nicely! There is too little data to say much about your perfect audience yet. But most corporate HR seem to be very interested in what you are doing! Perhaps... just hire a few salespeople and knock on the doors of all relevant decision-makers?
After I heard this a second time we decided to give it a try. More than that, we decided to try to find people who would be ready to work for a hefty commission. Is this mission impossible? At least not in Helsinki. Onboarding 4 salespeople was probably the highlight of the year 2020 for me. They booked 54 sales meetings in 3 weeks before Christmas. Some context: in Finland where we were selling this is the hardest time ever to sell. Before them, working alone I had perhaps 5-10 meetings booked per month. Beyond increasing sales 10x, I also eliminated the suffering that came from a ton of procrastination that was happening because I was doing something I didn't like.
Cold calling culture
One last note on this topic is that cold calling culture matters. Finland where we started is regarded as a very cold call-friendly culture. Surprisingly, people still pick up the phone. So do consider whether in your market this will actually work. This is something we ourselves are currently figuring out. I would warn you about one thing though. Take a look at the tweet above. Are you open-minded about cold calls? Many people believe they don't work. But... have you actually tried?
Thanks for sticking with me till the end! Except for my other commitments, I am a GrowthClub member who became a co-founder there. GrowthClub is a community of founders with an average of $5K+ MRR where founders exchange growth hacks and build genuine connections in 1-on-1 video calls.