Swarmsales launched in late 2016 and it has been a really amazing ride so far. We raised Venture Capital from Pierre Omidyar (ebay founder) in September of 2016 and from TriValley Ventures in 2017. My co-founders Ankur Srivastava, Samir Rajguru and I have learned so much about Enterprise Sales, Freelancing and Platforms.
Our initial goal was to create a platform that allowed companies to leverage Top Enterprise Sales people to break into accounts and to close deals faster than ever before.
Ankur and I had spent many years in Enterprise Sales with Software and Cloud based companies such as Oracle, IBM, or EMC and when we launched Swarmsales, it made sense for us to focus on enterprise software ($420B market) and cloud ($200B market) given their combined market size. If we could only capture 1% of the sales in these markets alone, we’d be the next Silicon Valley unicorn very quickly.
It also made sense to go after sales people in the USA because every company wants to augment or expand their sales in this country. Our secret sauce was that Companies could lower their cost of sales by compensating experienced enterprise sales people with existing accounts and relationships. The vendor companies would pay sales people based on milestones completed such as an Introduction to the right Decision Maker, a Demo to a customer achieved, a completed product pilot and/or a Win (with a Purchase Order in hand). We had huge projections for what we could achieve in the first year of business and a great team to make things happen.
I’ll save you some time and won’t go into all of the details, but as I look back I realize that we were right about the fact that a company like ours had to exist, but as we head towards Product Market Fit we’ve identified much better what it is that we can do for companies.
Via the Swarmsales platform a company of any size can embrace Freelance Enterprise Sales Professionals to engage with them to break into new accounts. The platform enables companies to recruit freelance sales people, train them to the degree required to represent their brand effectively and manage the communication independently for each account/opportunity they wish to target. It also allows companies to pay sales people in 3 following ways:
- Milestone Payments for Sales Professionals: Milestone payments allow companies to compensate sales professionals based on progressing opportunities to closure.
- Task Payments: This feature allows companies to pay sales professionals for things other than milestones. It could allow companies to pay for expenses for training hours that don’t directly impact a sales cycle but still require sales people to invest their time in your company, and they definitely should be compensated for such activities. A company could also decide that they don’t want to pay based on milestones and they prefer to pay sales people on an hourly basis or a weekly or monthly retainer. Based on research, sales people only spend 11% of their time in front of customers on the phone or in person, so why pay them a full time salary for 160 hours of work if you only need a fraction of that time?
- Commissions at close of the deal: This is why sales people do what they do but don’t ever forget that in this day and age Top Sales Professionals are in high demand and you can not go cheap on them because they have too many great options available. If you only pretend to pay sales people a hefty commission upon closing an enterprise deal, let me warn you it’s not going to work.
Let me also share some best practices in order of importance as it relates to gaining traction quickly with Freelance enterprise sales people:
- As with any other platform, your company must designate a focal point to ensure that Swarmsales is embraced effectively. This individual must have experience in enterprise sales to manage this entire effort and will ideally invest at least one hour/day reaching out to sales people to follow up on existing opportunities and engaging new ones to permanently keep the funnel of opportunities active.
- The recruiting effort is one of the most unique aspects of how we deliver value to your company every day, and ensuring you incentivize candidates to want to sell your solutions or products is critical to the success of this entire effort. We’ve partnered with online job boards like ZipRecruiter or Indeed and have integrated them into our platform to allow you to find sales professionals that fit your requirements. In this process, we ask your HR department to provide us with a job posting like this one for Dropbox . Essentially we’ll give you a job description template for an ideal freelance enterprise sales professional and you tailor it to your company’s needs. This job description template states very clearly that your company is looking for Freelance Enterprise Sales people to work as Independent Contractors and compensates them via the Swarmsales platform for identifying and progressing opportunities and closing them. We then post the job description and all candidates that apply and respond accurately to our questionnaire are invited to the Swarmsales platform to create their profile and submit accounts that they’d like to represent in which they have relationships and ideally have sold previously.
- With Companies and sales people in a freelance model, there is a chicken and egg problem as sales people are not sure they can get your company into their accounts and it’s in your best interest to take the first step towards incentivizing sales people to dedicate time to generate demand amongst their accounts for you. My suggestion is that you’ll want to pick a few top sales people and put them on a retainer. We’ve experimented with putting certain sales people on a $1000 monthly retainer and this allows them to invest 5-15 hours/month in prospecting for your company. Before you know, they will have a few meetings lined up and it’s amazing what you can achieve in that short time when tapping into a new sales professional’s rolodex as they can quickly reach out to their existing relationships and open lots of doors for the right company.
- We also discovered that there are mainly 2 ways in which a company could use the Swarmsales platform based on what they needed sales professionals to achieve:
- If your company has a complex sales cycle and requires of your own sales specialists to progress your opportunities, your best bet is to use Swarmsales to engage freelance sales people that will get you a discovery call or introductory meeting that your own sales lead will attend. Upon qualification of a real opportunity, your own sales person takes over and the freelance sales professional hands-off the opportunity and only comes in if and when required by the vendor company. In this model, we’ve identified that paying the freelance sales professional some sort of combination between a retainer and high milestone payments and a low commission rate or even a flat bonus once you close a deal is a great recipe for success.
- If you prefer to use the Swarmsales platform to assemble an “AUTONOMOUS FREELANCE SALES FORCE”, you’ll want to take into consideration a few factors:
- Do you have short Sales cycles? If you do, then this model should work fine but make sure you’re compensating the freelance sales professionals for all the hours they invest in progressing your opportunities. If your sales cycles are long, you’ll need to compensate sales people to remain engaged in your sales process or they’ll get demotivated by having to work long hours and not seeing payment until a deal closes. That won’t fly!
- Are your deals large enough for the Sales professional to want to engage you into their accounts? We’ve seen that sales people will typically look for deal sizes to be at least $30,000 for them to want to engage with your company.
- Swarmsales is a great sales augmentation solution and it shouldn’t be seen as a competitor to your inside sales organization or as a replacement for internal sales. It is though a great complement to allow you to assemble a crowd sourced team of freelance sales people that can lower your cost of sales and break into new accounts. It is a perfect fit to improve your topline funnel and bottom line results. We’ve put together a very easy to understand ROI calculator that clarifies what costs are involved in launching a Swarmsales effort and expect you’ll give us feedback or reach out if you have questions, comments or concerns.