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did you guys use experienced sales people?

Prior to product market fit, the founders need to be selling. Once you have product market fit, you need people who already know how to sell your type of product into your target market.

That was a mistake that we made. We started by hiring smart people and trying to let them figure out how to sell. I strongly recommend NOT doing that. In startupland, time is your greatest enemy and you don't have time for people to learn. Also, you probably aren't a sales expert, so you can't teach them what they need to know to be great.

Another mistake we made was hiring people who were good at selling other things. Medical device sales, consumer product sales, SaaS sales to SMB, SaaS sales to enterprise, etc. Once again, great sales people in other types of sales can learn to sell into your market, but it can take a long time and you probably don't have the expertise to teach them.

We spent 12 months trying to use smart people with no experience and sales people that were great at selling into different markets and generated essentially $0 in sales. We were ready to give up. Finally we hired a senior sales person from a competitor that was selling a very similar product, into the same market (med-large business) and we've taken off since then.

This goes completely contrary to your original comment.

Your growth hack/shortcut was in the end, to poach a sales guy from a competitor who had clout with a bunch of customers in your field.

He didn't have any clout with customers in our field and certainly didn't bring a book of business with him. In sales, your current and prospective customer list is considered IP of the company you work for. What he brought was his skills in selling SaaS B2B, which comes from experience. I don't think hiring someone with experience is normally considered a growth hack. It's probably common sense, but we were too dumb to know it.

I thought sales was just sales and if you could sell one thing, you could sell anything. What I didn't realize is that selling B2B to a small business and selling B2B to an enterprise is as different as a skill set as writing compilers and building web scale applications. It takes years to get really good at each one of those things.

I've also learned that as a founder/CEO, most of my time is spent selling. I was a software engineer for 10 years and now I pretty much spend all day every day selling. Selling investors on why they should buy 25% of my company, selling potential hires on why we are the next big thing, selling the board on our new plan, selling customers on our product and selling employees on the company vision.

There were no customers common to both populations?

Hiring a domain expert for the long-term is not a hack or shortcut. Just because an action had rapid effects does not mean it's a shortcut.

Interesting. Can I ask was it familiarity with segment-appropriate marketing channels, segment trends, consumer terminology, competitor product weaknesses and pricing structures, something else, or some combination of the above?

Right before we found success, we had hired an enterprise account executive and an enterprise SDR. They were doing what they knew how to do: building long term relationships. The problem is that in the medium and large business space, they don't care about relationships.

Once we had someone who knew how to sell SaaS to medium and large businesses, we just started doing what they considered obvious and fundamental. It was a revelation to us. :)

We started using software to send emails, track opens and clicks and then call prospects that did any of those things. You have to do a lot of dials, but eventually, someone answers. Of course they're not interested, so back to dialing. After 30 answers you'll get one that is interested.

Sales is just a numbers game. It's hard work. It's hella hard work. But send enough emails and make enough calls and you'll make some sales. And there is nothing like the feeling of closing a sale after grinding it out. Over time the sales add up, and before you know it, you are having a party with silly string and noise makers because you passed $1M in sales! (That was a fun day!!!)

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