Adil Saleh 0:31 Hey, greetings everybody. This is a deal from having a podcast I have Prateek with me, who's the founder of activated scale has been, you know, working with sales operations of, you know, startup to mid market to even enterprise hybrid sales operations very much there for about two years now, being a part of the Tech Stars bank back in 2020, to two. So thank you very much, Pratik, for taking the time.
Prateek Mathur 0:55
Of course, thanks so much for having me. I
Adil Saleh 0:59
love that. So back set, you mentioned that, you know, when it comes to sales operations, there are so many challenges company wide as you grow as a business as a SaaS business or any business. Essentially, you came across different challenges time to time. So you talk about startup, they are not going to have so much challenge in hiring salespeople in the beginning, but building sales operations from from the ground up, let's say take an example of Team less than 10 dealing 150 customers and they are willing to gonna co founders and CMOs and you know CTOs, they're engaging with the customers day in day out, you're trying to drive sales, you know, retain customers also working with the product team, just creating a scenario for for startup motion, how do you think activity at scale can contribute?
Prateek Mathur 1:47
So activated scale is a marketplace where we connect startups with sales talent that they can hire part time or full time. So essentially, all of our customers are either businesses that are coming out from like combinator or TechStars. And because we're also Techstar back, or they may be businesses that may be Bootstrap, or startups that may have raised funding, you know, seed or seed, or like Series A. And essentially, the way that we help them is that we connect them with, with sales talent that has prior experience, selling to not only the buyer titles that they are building for and selling to, but with sales talent that has had prior experience selling at that ACB. And that segment. So essentially, think of this as hiring your, your salesperson, who is coming from a background of selling to who you're building for. And you can hire them part time or full time without the expenses that that come about, with, for example, payroll, or benefits cost or all of that. So a lot of the customers that we work with are, you know, initially do start off, you know, on like a part time basis where they're working with a sales talent, you know, for 20 ish hours every single week, they then convert them from 20 to 40 hours, and then a lot of them end up hiring them. So as of right now, I'd say close to 55% of our customers that stop on that contract manner, end up hiring these folks as employees. But a lot of them use them to sort of test, you know, different motions, get them in front of different kinds of buyers, you know, test an enterprise sales motion versus a mid market versus an SMB motion, test, different pricing. And then essentially, with the help of this experience that that they're getting at a fraction of the cost, they end up building up their entire outbound sales motion.
Adil Saleh 4:04
That's very interesting. Like you mentioned, the fact that, you know, these these sales people that you're bringing up to to your marketplace for all these startups, even midsize businesses that have already served your customer segment, absolutely. How does that mean how you make it so seamlessly possible? At your marketplace?
Prateek Mathur 4:26
Yeah, so you know, hiring sales talent is a big challenge. Any salesperson can interview really well. But the results of that salesperson come about in you know, in a couple of months by when an organisation may have not only spent a lot of money but has spent a lot of time. So I remember reading this, this, this post by Jason Lemkin, it wasn't processed, but he said that it takes Close to 180 days to get a sales rep, post round. So you know, 90 days, find that person on board do all of that good stuff solid by by by like six months is when you've sort of figured out if that salesperson is really worth it. One of the things that that we've done, and you know, and I've been a salesperson for the last 20 years, 14 of these 20 years, I was building go to market teams, I was hiring a bunch. So of course, I've made a lot of mistakes myself. But I've taken all those mistakes, and I've created a, you know, create like a way in which I'm only onboarding, the best talent. So a couple of things that we have, that we're doing here. So one is, of course, from a betting perspective, right. It's not just you know, getting a salesperson who you know, has had prior experience and you know, and can and can talk the walk, but it's been, it's essentially getting a salesperson who's gone through a vetting process, that vetting process today includes them reviewing a case study, sending us a pitch, sending us an email, for example, based upon which is when they actually move to the next stage, which is this pitch. And this email sequence is then reviewed by their peers who are part of you know, what part of the network, and only if they across all these stages is when they then go through a 30 to 45 minute interview, that's, you know, these are certain steps that, you know, that we've taken to ensure that the talent that we're bringing on board can actually sell. So that's one side of it, the other side of it is, next step is to then connect them with the right kinds of companies, right. And that's where the personality side of it also comes in, on both sides of founder, as you know, as well as you know, as well as opposed to the salesperson, and then eventually is comes in, of course, the flexibility. So a lot of our customers, you know, don't just hire one person, a lot of them hire two or three, you know, go fractionally with them depends upon how things are things are obviously progressing is when they either continue working with, you know that all three, or from those three, stick to the stool. So you know, that's where the marketplace angle also plays like a big role to ensure that the startups that we're working with, are only getting not only better talent, but also have the flexibility to work with who they eventually want to work.
Adil Saleh 7:44
Okay, how is it different than a recruitment firm?
Prateek Mathur 7:46
Oh, lots of ways, right. So I'm not dissing, eliciting, unlike a staffing firm. But most people who are recruiting are people who have essentially sold themselves. So they take a job wreck, they look at kebabs. They go through LinkedIn, for example. And get talent, right? I'm a salesperson, vetting a salesperson. So my isn't for lack of a better word. My BS metre is already very, very, very, very high. Right. So that is one side of it. The other side of it, right? I mean, as a staffing firm, they will probably send 1015 20 resumes, you know, whichever clicks, prefer, it'll pay for that one person to of course, click, there's no real vetting. There's no real interviewing prior and the entire risk is on the founder. Right? And gosh, then let's not forget their fields. And yes, then they'll give you like a guarantee. But hey, going back to remember what I just mentioned that it takes six months. So you have spent all that time you spent all that money. Yes, you have that guarantee. But so be it right? From my perspective, I'm not sorting by keywords. Everyone is getting vetted properly. I'm not sending 1015 people and hoping for the best, the risk is all on me. Because at the end of the day it's startup can, you know, cut a contract with whoever that they choose to whenever they want. So that entire grace is on me, not on the startup founder.
Adil Saleh 9:46
Two questions on this. Number one, of course, it takes it takes a cycle like how long is onboarding cycle for for any business to get there, some real sales can inform you. Second, second question. In is, you know, how long do you can hold your customers like, let's say we met a lot of, I wouldn't say recruiters, but they are like, they have a model, that they first trained their customer success people for that job for that role. And they basically embed that person. And they make sure that that that process CS operations that say, CS operations of that particular customers, they are streamlined enough to maybe, you know, get this person incorporated inside the operation. So, it takes like three to six months for them to completely leave the customer, and set it free with that customer success manual. So how does that feel? Yeah, so,
Prateek Mathur 10:42
number one, I've had customers go from my first conversation with them to hiring and starting a salesperson in seven days. Because the fact that I have my vetted, you know, Talent Network with me,
Adil Saleh 11:00
you gotta pull up sales people. Exactly, right. So
Prateek Mathur 11:06
it looks like let's assume like, here is a startup selling to a CIO at a mid market company within, you know, with an average deal size of say, 50 to 100 grand. I've already taken that I've connected them, it takes me two or three days to cross connect them with three to five salespeople that interview them, and I've had customers start as soon as seven days. One is that the next step of what you mentioned, in like terms of, you know, you've you know, that you've heard of like models, where people, you know, like, get trained and all that, no, I am not that I do not, I don't, you know, get fresh off the boat salespeople and train them, and then, you know, place them, I don't do that I only work with sales staff. And that's had experience. So when I look at, like my network, a salesperson who may have had the least amount of experience, whatever, at least had five to seven years behind them. So these, these aren't just Fresh Books. Now we'd like terms of how long do I work with my customers, I check in with them every two weeks. So they have a you know, 3060 90 day onboarding plan, when in which that 30 day plan is actually you know, more of the, you know, more of like the heavy lifting where it's, you know, where it's the founder working with that salesperson, really, you know, the founder, sorry, you know, ensuring that the salesperson understands everything. And then within the first 30 days itself, they start seeing action happening. So whether it is prospecting, whether it is you know, closing deals, demoing deals, whether it is building that entire strategic go to market motion. That's where the first 30 days essentially, are, was spent electrons of training and all that good stuff. But, you know, I am with my customers through the entire engagement, averaging engagements with me are close to five and a half months. And by that what I mean is, it's at least, you know, five and a half months still when that salesperson has been working with them on that contractual basis, whether it's a non prime contract, or whether it's a full time contract. So I'm along with them for that entire journey I have. So I've been doing this for two years now. I have customers who are still contracting with me, for 17 months of my 24 hour. Right? And the real still handle like he is working, I'm still, you know, thinking through metrics with them, we're still adjusting. I'm still with them with this entire journey.
Adil Saleh 13:55
Yeah, yeah, the real success of this model, because I is great friend of mine who's does the same similar model in a customer success for Customer Success telling the real world when you really think that it's proven, when the same company starts building teams with you, let's say a sales team. They're thinking of hiring a VP of sales just because of you because you help them build a team of 15 salespeople, we'd be an account manager to compensate as a solution. Architect a lot of these rows that you see in a sales operation. So how many of your customers are at that point? Yeah.
Prateek Mathur 14:35
I'd say most customers either start off you know, when when they are ready to of course sell. So I only work with startups that have gone to the founder led sales motion right where the founder has already sold that product. For that very simple reason that you know, sales is a process. A salesperson is not, you don't mean they're not you know, they're not like magicians. So just because now you have a CEO, working with you, your sales aren't just going to suddenly skyrocket. So I only work with founders that have gone to the funnel, Sal motion, they know what their sales process is, you know all of that good stuff. They've had churn all that good stuff. Now, I've had a lot of my customers, either startup and say, Hey, I've done this, I know what I'm selling. And now I just need to build my full cycle sales team, right, where they've got an experienced salesperson who's not only prospecting, but it's also closing. They then eventually, you know, start with one go to two go to three go to four, at the end of the day, my mother was working, when that salesperson is ROI positive, right? Yes. When you're hiring a salesperson, they are a revenue generating person. That's important. Yeah, it's
Adil Saleh 15:53
directly tied to the top line revenue, sales. Motion is directly tied. It's basically existence of the technology or the company's in state. Yep, absolutely. You know, they are the front runners. Yeah. So yes,
Prateek Mathur 16:07
all of them start off like this. Most of them start off with, okay, I have two or three people, I need to get like a, you know, I mean, get like a VP to sort of build that into emotion. And then they keep building teams like that, right. So I've had like, as of right now we've worked with it's 118 startups so far, like in the last few years. Of those 118? I'd say close to 30 of them, have your head back started this way. A lot of them have you have started with hey, I need to build my biller my go to market motion, gums, you know, and he has a VP of sales. We've had a lot of folks say, Okay, I've sold I need more leads, and you're you know, then they hire a salesperson who's prospecting, who the who then eventually, you know, give them that entire sales cycle to manage, you know, within two ish months. So, I mean, honestly, I've had customers start through the board, depending upon the stage that they're at,
Adil Saleh 17:13
yeah, you're getting customers that start and retire with you.
Prateek Mathur 17:18
Today, you know, I love what I'm doing, because I get to work with phenomenal founders that are reimagining the world that we live in. I get to work with with salespeople that are driving through impact, right, they are part of your I mean, they're part of the trajectory of offering another startup. Man that is just fulfilling by itself, right?
Adil Saleh 17:51
You got so many people, right? That's it, you got so many people to look up to when it comes to sales. And, you know, I'm sure you must have read that book, never split the difference. It's by Yeah, it's a great negotiation for for negotiation and sales. Now, the AMA says by myself, I started back in 2011, as a mortgage broker for South Texas brokerage company and, you know, selling, sending home reloads, and, you know, re mortgages and reverse mortgages and 17 years old kids back then. So, you know, all these folks and the way sales have transitioned over time, they didn't say like, first it was more of a BPO you know, cold calling, and you know, you know, follow ups and you know, more outbound and now it's more digital sales, value driven, you know, you deliver the value, it's more towards, you know, product lead growth, and now it's community led growth, so much has changed in the past, I would attend to the changes, and I'm so grateful to have someone like you that has a great enterprise experience in sales, and to learn from and to come up and builds such a marketplace. Activated skill. So one question before I set up is the referral process. By that I mean, a lot of these high growth you know, startups sitting at 100 million recurring and recurring 200,000,000,300 A lot of these they have the internal process their employees, their team members can refer to friends and people that divide watch, how do you incorporate inside your you know, business model, let's say take an example. If I was his statement, I got connected with you You trust me, you placed me in some company that is relevant to me, I'm good at b2b sales more than the retail so I'll just go you'll just try to replace me with the retail business or some e commerce or any you know, consumer base product business. So now at that point, if I go there, stay there for a good amount of time and it didn't need more people if I know you don't know I know people that the same industry that are good salespeople is Is there any way for activated scale to get benefit as Imams? I'm talking about the commercial standpoint is where you get some sort of benefit from this person, because you were the initial point of contact, and you were the guy that actually brought that relationship in the beginning. So
Prateek Mathur 20:17
30% of my of my business, which is fairly high comes purely from referrals. Not only founders referring other founders, but salespeople referring salespeople. So, at the end of the day, you know, from a founder perspective, of course, someone you know, someone that is like another founder, yes, there is a service fee angle to my business, which is, of course discounted for them, when the referral does come through and other false starts working with me. And you know, and that's very clear from the salesperson side of it, right? So yes, there is a commercial component to it, you're probably from
Adil Saleh 21:02
love that. Love that. Thank you very much, Pratik for taking the time and sharing these deep insights. And after a long time, I got someone from my I would say, my trades, you know, with the kind of background that I had, you had more on the enterprise side and more on the on the father's side, but it was really nice, catching up with your conversation. And I wish you well, good luck with activities in all these startups listening. I will definitely it's not about recommendation, it's about you know, it speaks for itself. You know, I'm so sure that all the Prateek shared today, it's the music to these, these founders, music to their ears. Why? Because they're always struggling by you know, every three months, they need to cheer someone as someone on the on their sales team, because the product is not bad. They're still looking for a good decent smart VP of sales that more data driven, a lot of there. So, you know, we can have a part two of this as well. You know, whenever you have time, regarding how because sales is all about data. You know, raising funds is all about data. Now. You know, it's not like 2015 or 16, that people are saying, Oh, you've got a great idea. Let's one and a half million and see. Let's go Let's do we trust you. It's not it's not happening now. It's more about what kind of impact you're going to make how many users you have, if not paid users, active users. Yeah, what does what kind of data and metrics you have to prove that to you know, basically complement that so there is so much that we can do talk about when it comes to sales operation and when it comes to data and data centralization, data unification? There's so much that we can talk whenever you find time. Absolutely. Happy to love that. Thank you very much. One more time. Thank you have a good rest of the day. Thanks. Bye