B2B sales. The right way.

Lessons from achieving 300% growth in the second year of a startup

2015 was full of changes and hard work for RightHello. We aimed to achieve big goals, but in the process we learned a lot about ourselves and about how a proper B2B start-up should work. Here’s my round-up of our most important lessons from the past year.

I founded RightHello in January 2014, inspired by Aaron Ross and with a plan to supercharge outbound B2B sales on a global scale. The bar was high in 2015 but we worked our asses off to get to where we are – and in 2016 we’re raising the bar even higher.

Accomplishments aside, what’s most memorable is what we learned – about entrepreneurship, teamwork, marketing and sales. 2015 is coming to end, so I decided to write up the most important lessons from this thrilling B2B startup ride to share them with you.

What we’ve learned in 2015

Just saying “we’ve grown” doesn’t mean anything, I know! But I come prepared with numbers to back my claims. I divided our most important lessons into 4 categories: entrepreneurial, teamwork, marketing (inbound and outbound), and sales.

Entrepreneurial lessons

Our efforts resulted in over 300% more revenue in 2015 than 2014. In the end, revenue is the lifeblood of business. We did plan that we would achieve that type of growth – but what if we had aimed for 400% or 500%? Could we have achieved that as well?

And this is actually the first lesson: aggressive planning does miracles.

There’s a 99% chance you won’t achieve jaw-dropping goals, but they will give you a powerful motivational boost. If you have 10 closed deals mid-month, and your monthly goal is 60 – you start hauling ass and re-focus on your priorities.

Second lesson here: it’s important to evaluate company performance, but it’s essential to precisely pick metrics that give you a complete view of how your business is doing. You need a North Star metric – a conclusive one, like revenue, to inform you if you’re headed in the right direction. That has to be paired with supplementary metrics and legitimate indicators of performance for each in-house team.

Additional metrics change depending on the stage of startup development – growth metrics don’t matter much if you’re doubling down on product development to have an MVP ready in a month instead of 6 months.

The third entrepreneurial lesson also concerns goal-setting – negative goals (“avoid sth” instead of “achieve sth”) help you avoid internal struggles. Identify actions that steer you and your teams away from priorities – that’s all you need in most cases. You’ll recognise those moments when you go wrong, remember your goal and stop engaging. When it’s not that easy – a simple, actionable plan will help you stop shooting yourself in the foot.

Teamwork lessons

Our team has expanded from 15 to 28 people, and at the moment we’re actively recruiting new members due to our big 2016 plans. I can tell you that great people are everything and I mean their human side, not their portfolios. The lesson here being: “Hire people for their character and guide them towards expertise”.

Looking for new people, we paid the biggest attention to their character – are they as eager to grow as we are? Are they willing to persistently learn new things? Do they like new challenges? Do they have street smarts? The most basic level of streets smarts that a startup requires is googling all your questions before wasting someone’s time to give you an answer that pops up on the first page of a search.

Hiring the right people is the start, the second lesson we learned about teamwork is: when you have a good team, you need to quickly get comfortable with delegating. Yeah I know, no-one can do your shit as good as you, right?

WRONG

Some will have a different approach, others will mess-up at the beginning, few will do exactly what you would’ve done. Let people do their work, and guide them towards reaching their goals instead of enforcing your own methods. You’ll never reach the “right moment” for delegating, it’ll always feel uncomfortable – so stop waiting for it, and let your team show you what they’re made of.

You’re guiding your employees towards greatness, but what will you do when they decide to leave? This is where the third lesson comes in – always be scouting for potential candidates. A great example is how troublesome it is for us to recruit new salespeople at the moment. Good sales professionals are generally hard to find, but recruiting them on a deadline is excruciating.

If we’d taken 2 hours out of each week to have coffee with 2 salespeople, and ask if they could imagine RightHello being part of their future career – we’d have a spreadsheet full of contacts right now. Instead Bartosz, our Head of Sales, had to focus solely on recruiting and work overnights for the last few weeks of 2015 to make sure we have a bigger sales team come 2016. That’s just painful.

Marketing – Inbound

We published 37 blog posts this year (2 guest posts included), and 242 answers on Quora. We’ve always known that content has to deliver real value, so we try to do no less than that when we write. It pays off in terms of highly qualified leads, and community appreciation – even if we don’t have hundreds of comments or shares, a lot of people have shown gratitude for our advice, in private emails or in person.

Our first lesson was that for a B2B startup, content creation doesn’t have to be a very tricky challenge – just create more of what works. We tried multiple content types, but luckily realised that we’re wasting a lot of time. So we just doubled down on answering real people’s questions on Quora, and writing helpful articles for our blog – both of our content channels that outperformed the rest significantly. We’ll introduce new types of content in 2016 but for 2015 RightHello’s needs, these 2 channels were just enough.

Second lesson was: don’t waste time on content creation. Articles for B2B startup aren’t supposed to be novels, think of them as if you’re actually talking to someone and responding to one specific question. Our most-converting blog posts were also the shortest, most specific ones that took the least amount of time to create.

As you can see from this post, we write for B2B startup professionals – mostly for founders and sales professionals. If that’s you – go ahead and sign up to our newsletter not to miss our content.

 

The third lesson is a hack for content creation – give yourself 20 minutes each day to dump ideas and drafts of content. It’ll all add up:

  • after a week you’ll have a blog post or a few Quora answers ready
  • after a year you’ll have a book’s worth of content

Dump ideas – you can always have someone on your team edit them, or even outsource the editing.

Lastly, Quora has taught us to remember about the Pareto principle in content marketing – do a 100 things well, but expect that only 20% of them will provide the results. It’s a game of numbers, just like sales – as long as you’re always giving value, because it’s never quite clear which topic on Quora will blow up in popularity, so don’t settle for only lame salesy answers or short, misleading ones.

The most popular answer of mine was something I basically wrote for fun – and then woke up one day to it having over 300k views, and generating 400% more visits to our website for 2 weeks.

Marketing – Outbound

We’ve generated 2,5 times more leads for our own sales team in 2015 than in 2014. The first thing we learned in the process is that the bigger your sales team, the more complicated outbound marketing gets. If you don’t think fast and organise everything in clear processes from the start (which we luckily did), you’ll end up in a clusterfuck of pain.

To avoid lead and deal “leakage” – automate, measure, iterate, improve. Have everything written down (a knowledge base), have weekly meetings, use whiteboards to discuss plans and ideas (seriously, can’t imagine running a company without whiteboards to scribble on).

The second lesson was: don’t get caught up in chasing one target group – you’re not looking for the holy grail, if a target group isn’t converting to clients then just let go, define a new one and try again. Switching just one vertical can change a lot – like changing only the geographic target from UK to France, but still looking for the same industry, type of companies, etc.

If, by any chance, you’re currently in need of bona fide outbound lead generation – go to this link and sign up through our sexy contact form.

Sales

The team that pays the bills, the department that keeps companies afloat, the processes we have the most expertise in. We acquired over 200% more new clients in 2015 than in 2014 (and our hustlers are still going at it).

First lesson: It’s not a good idea to hire one salesperson without a back-up option. Even when you have an awesome process and that’s all the capacity you need, in case that person gets a better offer at a different company – you’ll have a storm of problems. Have a back-up, or get 2 salespeople from the start. It’s still better to lose a third of your team, than half of it in one blow. This happened to Bartosz, and it was really hard to find someone new and ramp up sales again. Make sure to have a back-up option for crucial employees.

The second, hugely important sales lesson: reach out to abroad markets sooner than you feel comfortable to do it. It’s scary – language barriers, timezone issues, etc. – we know it. Even though we preach starting with your home market first, going abroad quickly might be the best move for sales. You’ll find your most converting target groups sooner (your first target abroad might not work out, you’ll have more time to iterate before leads in your home market dry out). We started early and now have clients on 3 continents – Africa, Europe, and America. It was worth it.

Thank you’s and future plans

Overall, the most important thing is to surround yourself with awesome people. When you do that, giving huge value in return comes easily.

We want to give a huge THANK YOU to our team, clients, advisors, investors, friends and everyone that has supported us. You’ve built this company the way it is, and you’re the motivation we need to rock it in 2016 and past that!

2015 taught as a lot, and it’s defined our theme for 2016 and RightHello’s future past that – aim to achieve more than you think you’re capable of.

Wishing you all the best for 2016!

Lead Generation Guide for 2016

Inside you'll find the most burning questions about lead generation from the B2B community, answered by Piotr (CEO) and Bartosz (Head of Sales). Download your free copy now and boost your sales!



  • http://outsprung.com Paul Manwaring

    inspiring read (i saw this on GH), the inbound section a lot of people will be able to relate to especially as most struggle with content creation. Quora is such a great place for content ideas!

    • Piotr Zaniewicz

      Thanks for the kind words :). Quora is such an awesome place, lately I’ve just been telling everyone about how much insights and inspiration you can find on there, it can’t be compared to any other site!

  • http://brainhub.eu/ Matt Warcholinski

    Amazing job guys. I am really impressed, what you have achieved in such a short time. Another thing is that you made the best polish blog that support/sales your product. I wish you to meet your goals in 2016 :) !

    • Piotr Zaniewicz

      Thanks, wishing you the same! :)

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