Today, SalesLoft announced that they raised a $10 million Series A, lead by Jason Green of Emergence Capital, with participation from Jason Lemkin of Storm Ventures and Tom Noonan. Now, this is a huge milestone for the company, but only one of many required to build a great business. Let’s dig into how SalesLoft got here.
Back in 2011, I was introduced to Kyle Porter, via a mutual friend, as someone who’s a young entrepreneurial sales executive with big aspirations. After meeting Kyle, I immediately tried to recruit him as a sales manager to help grow the Pardot team. Quickly, it became clear that running a sales team wasn’t his goal. Not having a position at Pardot that he was interested in, I invited him to the Ruby Tuesday’s next to the Pardot office with a different idea: let’s start a technology company together focused on making sales people more productive.
Several weeks later, after many conversations and hours of brainstorming, SalesLoft was started around the idea of building a sales intelligence platform (working tag line: sales intelligence — no longer an oxymoron). The original product would scrape the web for compelling events sales people needed to know about. For example, if a company was expanding offices or merging with another company, those were potential opportunities sales people needed to know about, especially if the company is one that’s already a prospect.
After struggling with adoption for the first product (it was a vitamin and not a painkiller), a new, simpler product was introduced called Job Change Alerts (JCA). JCA was easier and more actionable for a sales rep to reach out to a lead or contact with a congratulatory note in an effort to stay top-of-mind. The product grew nicely from a users perspective, but was difficult to monetize as it was still more of a nice-to-have rather than a must-have. Then, LinkedIn introduced a more enhanced version of their job change notification service at no charge, and it was clear JCA was doomed.
All throughout this iterative process, whenever a sales manager or sales rep was asked what they really wanted, the overwhelming response was that they wanted fresh, high quality prospect data with which to do more outreach. As a side project, an intern was tasked with building a tool to scrape data online in an effort to build the most accurate list of prospects. After the list-building tool, called Prospector, was introduced to SalesLoft prospects, the immediate response was incredible. Finally, something that did the job quickly and helped sales reps generate more leads.
JCA was put to rest and all the efforts were focused on Prospector. Immediately, Prospector took off, due in part to providing tremendous value with minimal effort and in part because of the large following SalesLoft earned via content marketing and Kyle’s evangelism. After multiple product reboots, and a full team reboot, SalesLoft was growing faster than any B2B SaaS product I’d ever seen.
With Prospector providing great data, customers started asking for a way to more effectively manage the inside sales process. CRMs like Salesforce.com are excellent, but are primarily a contact and opportunity database. Instead, SalesLoft customers wanted a business process management application of record that worked in conjunction with a CRM (or can function standalone). Imagine an application that helps enforce business rules around number of phone calls per day, number of emails per day, etc. all tailored to the type of sales rep, combined with an execution engine whereby the software actually dials the phone and sends the emails. The result is a huge increase in productivity and sales. Another way to think about it: take the Predictable Revenue methodology and build a product to repeatably execute it. That, essentially, is the Cadence product, and it now represents the fastest-growing product line within SalesLoft, and the future of the company.
Congratulations to Kyle, Rob, Tim, and the rest of the SalesLoft team for achieving this milestone!
For entrepreneurs, this is a good case study of just how challenging it is to get a company going and what it takes to be in a position to build something special.
What else? What are some other thoughts on the SalesLoft story?