How we Bootstrapped Datanyze to $1M ARR with just 1 Engineer and 4 Salespeople

September 18, 2014 Ilya Semin

This past Monday during Sales Hacker Boston, I talked about how we bootstrapped Datanyze to $1M ARR back when we only had 5 employees. We’ve come a long way since then, but a lot of the tactics that made Datanyze successful early on continue to play a big role in our development today.

Although this blog post won’t cover everything that was said during the presentation, I thought it would be cool to share a few of the main points in hopes of helping out fellow bootstrappers on their startup journey. Here goes!

Even engineers must learn how to sell

Unfortunately for engineers, it’s not enough to just build a cool product. If you can’t convince people to buy your new creation, you’re going to be stuck at square one for a long time. Before Datanyze, I had no previous sales experience. However, I’ve been able to pick up a few things over time that have helped us consistently create and close new business.

First and foremost, you can’t rely on prospects to get in touch with you — you have to be a hunter. The first 10 Datanyze customers all came from highly personalized cold emails (not cold calls) that took more than 10 minutes to craft. For more advice on cold emailing executives, check out this post.

When you get a prospect on the hook, it’s extremely important to take a data-driven approach. For Datanyze, this means understanding exactly how each one of our features impacts the bottom line and continuing the develop the product to fit the needs of SaaS sales teams. By communicating a specific ROI (give numbers if you’ve got them), you’ll be able to take a stronger stance during negotiations and achieve buy-in from your prospect’s executive team.

When selling, ask for advice

Once I built the prototype for Datanyze, it was time to see if anyone was interested in using it. Instead of selling to my first few prospects directly, I found that it was more valuable to start the conversation by asking for feedback. Here’s the cold email I sent to Ben before he joined Datanyze as employee #2 and became our chief revenue officer.

Timing is everything

When looking to connect with prospects, journalists, investors or whoever else has the potential to impact your business, the timing of your outreach is crucial. For founders and CXOs, I’ve found that the best time to get in touch is over the weekend. There’s way less noise on a Saturday or Sunday, so this should increase your chances of success. For everyone else, I’ve had a good deal of luck around 2pm ET on weekdays… I’m sure there are lots of good studies out there — I’ll leave that for you to find. :)

Be PASSIONATE

If you’re not excited about the product, your prospect won’t be either. In the beginning, it may be much easier to be enthusiastic about your solution, but it’s extremely important to maintain this passion and excitement even after your 100th demo.

At Datanyze, we prefer to give live demonstrations of our prospecting tools. Unlike a PowerPoint presentation, this keeps things interactive and enables our sales reps to show their prospects exactly how they could use our solution. It also helps keep our reps on their toes, because each demo has the potential to be wildly different than the last.

Your customer is your #1 priority

For any startup with 10-50 customers, referrals are the best way to quickly grow your business. But as you can imagine, customers don’t simply give out the names and contact information of other folks in their industry — you have to earn it.

At Datanyze, our customers truly are our #1 priority. This mindset is reflected in the way we develop the product, the people we hire, the content we create and the tools we invest in. In fact, some of our best ideas have come directly from customers.

For example, we have a customer whose main competitor sells 1-year contracts, so we built the Countdown feature to enable them to see every website that added this competitor’s technology 9 months ago. This way, our client can reach out 3 months before their competitor’s contract is up to discuss switching vendors.

In short, work to understand your customers’ needs. Figure out what makes them interested in your product and where you can improve a certain area. Listen more, talk less.

Time to hear your feedback

Now, I haven’t included everything here, and I’m sure there are a lot of great pieces of advice that I’ve left out. In the comments, feel free to share your thoughts or any tips you’ve picked up along the way — I’d love to hear them!

About the Author

Ilya Semin

Ilya is the founder and CEO of Datanyze. During the week, Ilya leads the management team in shaping the overall vision, culture and strategy of Datanyze. On weekends, Ilya puts on his developer hat and has been known to build game-changing new products by Monday morning.

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