I’m publishing a series of Q&A excerpts from my interviews with Sales 2.0 leaders, which will appear in my next book. This is the first excerpt from my interview with Jim Pitkow, CEO of Attributor, which produces Web-monitoring software that protects publishers’ revenue by preventing unauthorized use of content.
An inside-sales veteran, Pitkow worked with my company, Phone Works, to research his market and customers as well as test the feasibility of using an inside-sales model, before he ramped up his sales efforts. Like most Sales 2.0 leaders, Pitkow isn’t afraid to try new things, but he is smart enough to test his hypotheses on small scales with pilot programs in all aspects of his business.
Anneke: Why did you decide to run an inside-sales pilot program?
Jim: The pilot allowed us to address the multiple objectives of customer validation and customer development. Also, when you take a company that has existing product and some customers, but is struggling toward a fully scalable, repeatable sales model, we had to answer the question, “Do we have the right customer/product fit?”
I became Attributor’s CEO in January 2009 and was left with a set of key business strategy questions and options: How do I get that customer/product fit nailed and find out what repeatable sales processes I have? What’s the right sales model? Is it field sales or is it inside sales? What are the average sale prices? I knew I could find the answers through piloting an inside-sales program.
Anneke: What challenges did the pilot help you mitigate, given you were a small startup with limited resources?
Jim: One of the biggest challenges startups face is sales execution risk. When a company has a few sales, they think those sales are repeatable, and they think a field sales model is the best approach. Then they go out and hire a VP of sales based on these hunches, not metrics. Some time later, the CEO realizes the person they hired to run sales is not the best fit and/or that their field sales model is probably a telesales model. They’ve wasted anywhere from six months to, sometimes, 2 years before they get that clarity.
I wanted to be able to show demonstrable results quickly. The last thing I could stand to do is go six months, hire a telesales person, find out they’re not performing and have to start over from scratch. I didn’t have the time or the investor support to do that.
Anneke: You needed to fast track.
Jim: Exactly, so I hired Phone Works to help us to mitigate the sales execution risk, so we could test the market quickly and efficiently, and leave the market forces — not our ability to recruit, execute and perform — as the only unknown variable. That’s what we did, and it turned out to be very productive.
What is your experience with pilot programs? Have they revealed unexpected findings? Helped prove possible results?