In-Person Selling & SaaS

SaaS sellingPosted originally on the CB Insights team blog.

We’ve been big proponents of virtual selling. We’ve done millions in sales without visiting or traveling to clients. Just give us our web conference and the CB Insights product, and we let the magic happen. It even led to us proclaiming it was the ‘end of steak dinners‘ in a recent newsletter.  The idea was that we could virtually sell and in-person contact was less important.

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Being a dickhead never pays

A few days ago, someone reached out to inquire about a job at CB Insights. He was among the first 10 people I’d demo’d CB Insights too after we launched publicly in February 2010.  And it is the only 1 of the first 10 I actually remember (who says you always remember your first).  I don’t remember him because the demo went well. Although that in of itself is remarkable given how buggy our v1.0 product was.

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Hiring senior people before product market fit

One of the things we often looked for in our early days was someone who can just come in and figure out how to make something work.

Let’s get someone to run sales.
Let’s get someone who can run marketing.
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Entrepreneurship Outside Silicon Valley

cult of personalityDanny Crichton has a good post over on TechCrunch about the problems with founders. He talks a lot about the cult of personality surrounding founders and how the teams behind some of these companies don’t get the fanfare.

It’s an interesting idea, and I appreciate cynicism especially in today’s frothy market.

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Doubling down

double downFinding channels that can spur growth in a startup is hard. You experiment a lot with various channels, but given resources, it makes sense to focus on a few with the highest ROI and return on effort.

Of course, it’s fun to and often necessary to experiment, but once you find something working, it’s time to double down on it until you realize the ROI is no longer there.

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Discounting in SaaS

I talked about horrible SaaS pricing models yesterday.

Today, I’m going to talk about discounting. Well, actually Ben Franklin is going to talk about discounting. Do it sparingly. If you have to win business by discounting in SaaS, you either have the wrong buyer or your product isn’t that good.

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Horrible SaaS Pricing Strategy

We get a lot of feedback on our pricing at CB Insights. Corporates say it may be too cheap and others, of course, think it is too much.  Here’s a common theme we see.

I might be missing something, but it’s not like you’re selling hard goods where you could potentially take a loss on individual units that you sell. Surely, when you’re building a software business like this, it’s better to have a customer who will be an evangelist at a reduced rate, even an extraordinarily reduced rate, than it is not to have that customer at all?

While pricing is a dark art and one which I don’t think there is ever a perfect solution, we’ve found that pricing based on the following two factors works best to guide our thinking on this:

  1. Value provided
  2. Brand

Pricing a SaaS application based on cost, however, is just a horrible idea. Don’t do it.


wantrapreneurThere were some negative comments about 500 Startups on Secret a couple of months ago.

Dave McClure handled the comments and discussion well in his characteristically heads-on way. That, however, is neither here nor there for me as how an accelerator/seed fund chooses to operate is their business. I assume if someone sucks, market forces will take care of them (Time Warner Cable and AT&T being exceptions but topics for another day). And by all accounts given Dave’s fundraising capabilities, he seems to know what he is doing.

In any case, I digress.

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Business articles that have influenced my thinking

learningThere are a few articles that I’ve read which have had a significant impact on my thinking about various business issues:
  • The Bowling Pin Strategy by Chris Dixon of A16Z - We think of data around private venture capital backed companies as a beachhead on a much larger market around private company data. Chris’ post was a great intro to the bowling pin strategy and also was a great articulation of our own strategy and helped us see we are not insane.

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Culture comes from who you hire (and fire)

corporate cultureI’ve been trying to understand how company culture gets created and fostered, and one of the recurring themes I’ve come across in reading people I respect on this topic is somewhat counterintuitive. They often highlight and discuss firing people as part of culture.

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