Startup Lessons Learned: Revenue Reconciliation

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 4.25.09 PMIn the early days of just about any startup, any sale seems like a good sale, right? And that’s great. But early on, before you have fancy accountants and real revenue recognition processes, it’s easy to let things get a bit sloppy in terms of reconciling sales, because hey, any sale’s a good sale, right?!

Recently I started spotting a few small inconsistencies in our sales reporting. Our bank account said one thing, our manual sales reporting another, our billing system another. Now, I’m just talking a few hundred bucks, but as sales grow month over month, a few hundy can turn into thousands if you don’t identify gaps in your reporting and plug them…now.

So what to do? First, identify your reporting sources. For us, we use Stripe for credit card processing. We use Salesforce.com to record our sales contracts. We also back that up with an old school Google Sheet since we don’t have all the bells and whistles we need in SFDC yet. We use Quickbooks Online for accounting. And we bank with First Republic.

If you get on this early, it’s really pretty easy to spot some omissions or simply mis-understanding or gaps in the process. What’d I find?

  • We have a handful of 6 and 12-month prepays in Stripe. So that entire payment tracked as single month monthly recurring revenue, and overstated our MRR. We’ve fixed that problem!
  • We had a few larger deals that (even though we really push for credit cards), were invoiced but it wasn’t clearly noted that this was the case. So that understated our revenue, plus since there is almost always a lag in payment on invoices, they weren’t reflected in our P&L either. We now flag these in Salesforce and in our old school Google Sheet and it all rolls into QBO and eventually into our P&L.

That brought things into line! Now, are we prepared for daily revenue recognition? Nope. But we’re now tracking very closely to actuals on all fronts. Who’s job is this to do in a small start-up? Yours, if you’re the CEO.

Startup Lessons Learned: Meetings – Go for The Face-to-Face

Cartoon: Face to faceMeetings. Meetings, meetings and more meetings. It’s easy sometimes to start to think of meetings as time sucks rather thanan investment in your business. Well, actually some meeting ARE time sucks, so just whack those out now, OK? But especially if you’re in business development, partnership or sales mode it’s so valuable to get in the car, train, bus, subway, Über or whatever and try your best to take these meetings in person. At their place of business.

It’s amazing how you can cut through the crap and make 10x the progress via just a phone call. It shows you value the relationship, and it’s amazing how often your prospect or potential partner will include additional decision makers when they know you’re showing up in person. People also tend to be more transparent in face-to-face meetings as well, and it’s typically easier to get a ‘read’ on the situation, opportunity, and how well the respond your solution.

I don’t know about you, but via phone, I get a lot of “yeah, that sounds interesting, let me double back with my team and I’ll get back to you in a couple weeks…”  Yeah, right.

But in person, the discussions are typically are more driven from an honest reaction to how your solution fits or doesn’t fit into their business, and what their internal or external challenges are. And that leads to immediate discussion around those issues, with more people involved. And at that point what I’ve learned in they really want to work towards a solution.

I recently almost slipped into a ‘phoner-mode’ with a potential partner; I had a couple conflicts, it was the day before I was leaving for a trip, excuses, excuses. I thought more about it, called the guy back, and said “You know, I think it’d be way better to meet at your office instead of a phone call.” He really appreciated it, and included 2 additional decision makers that would not have been on a phone meeting. And instead of a 30-minute call it turned into a hugely productive 1 hour and 15-minute meeting with concrete takeaways and a solid action plan. And some great chemistry; we both really want to find a way to work together.

Is it a done deal yet? Not yet. But I guarantee it’s way further down the road toward a ‘yes’ and potentially much bigger, than we all originally thought!

Now, my startup lesson this past week? Time is valuable so Im not recommending in-person meetings for each one; just the ones you think are at the level of importance to get in there, show off your stuff and push the deal ahead faster.

Startup Lessons Learned: It’s All About People

Every day I talk to our startup team at Dasheroo, anyone on it, I’m reminded how lucky I am to have the best team I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with.

People make technology happen, not the other way around.

Our team goes above and beyond to listen to customer’s needs and develop software that fits the future. They anticipate what will be asked for and ensure that we can grow into how we build things. That’s a pretty amazing crystal ball to look into.Startup Dasheroo basecamp project

People need to really care about what they do.

Our team is THE most caring team I’ve ever worked with. They are often up all hours, working with customers world-wide, and they contribute amazing ideas to our future. We even have a think tank project for our small team in Basecamp called Crazy Ideas. Our team is posting to that all the time and it’s not only engineers, it’s sales and marketing too!

People need to care about who they build it for. 

Our team loves our customers. I send an email entitled “quick question” to all new users, just asking them where they heard about us and why they signed up. When anyone replies (and 20% of you do!) the replies go to everyone in the company. And I assure you they are read by everyone. When a support question comes in, everyone gets the email. Why? Because everyone wants to know what our users need. This startup team wants to dig in and understand how they can make our user experience the best it can be.

I write this (and the team knows it) because it’s true. Team, you are the best I’ve ever worked with, thanks from me and on behalf of all of our users for being great people!

Track Our Startup: HubSpot + New Platform Features on the Horizon

The team here has been busy with our new HubSpot dashboards release. We now have 13 new insights crossing CRM, sales and marketing for any HubSpot user. You can get a free month to try it out. Then it’s available for anyone who has our Grande or Venti plans.

Dasheroo dashboards: Notes

This is a “notes” feature you’ll be able to add to your dashboards!

Janine and I attended Infusionsoft’s ICON event in Phoenix. What a great team of people there and an awesome show for any business to get the need-to-know for all things marketing, sales, CRM and e-commerce related. Way to go guys! If you didn’t know we have Infusionsoft insights for Dasheroo. Check them out here, you can also have a free month trial just like HubSpot.

We’ve been working on our next P release, P is for Platform so that means features we’re working on happen across the entire product. Dasheroo users have been asking to include notes within a given dashboard. When we release this you’ll be able to add text that could be bold or italics and you can add a link! Pretty cool.

Another part of our P release is testing the ability to scroll within an insight. So say for instance you have 25 email marketing campaigns you wanted to see the results of. Right now we give you the ability to see the last 10. But if you segment your lists and happen to send more than 10 in a given week, you have to go to the native app. We’re testing the ability to let you scroll through 10, 25 and 50. You can imagine how we can then take that into your Tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram Analytics and anything you do a bunch of times. Great job to James and his awesome team.

We continue to march down the investing path. It’s not a great time to be raising money. We’re also talking to strategic partners. We read this great interview with Heidi Roizen that really talks about choosing the right VC, we really like her:-)

Startup Lessons Learned: Go for a Drive!

Mini Cooper DashboardsWho drives anymore?! The other day, I hopped in the old Mini Cooper for a meeting in Burlingame and it had been so long that the battery was dead! So I pulled up Uber and off I went, talking on the phone or checking email the entire time.
But just recently, Janine and I had to criss-cross a bit of the Tri-state areas of NY, PA and NJ and really the only way to get it done was renting a car and getting behind the wheel.
So there we were, driving up the Saw Mill Parkway from Manhattan to Dover Plains staring at our dashbords. And you know what – we were actually unplugged and…wait for it…talking! And yes, talking a fair amount about Dasheroo. Instead of nose-down in our Macs. It’s amazing how some F2F brainstorming can benefit your biz.
So in about 1 1/2 hours we didn’t just talk, we decided on:
  • putting a pop-up sign up form on each page of our blog, with a tailored headline based on the blog topic (it’s working great!)
  • a new way to access & visualize custom internal data for our users on their dashboards
  • a potential new product offering & revenue stream

So an average of 30 minutes per idea? I’ll take that any day! Maybe we should just drive around more often and talk about dashboards, but I’ll tell you – Manhattan (or SF for that matter) traffic is not the most conducive, go out to the country!

Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up an Automated Welcome Email In Salesforce.com

We love Salesforce, it’s such a powerful tool to not only have all of your customer data in one place and accessible, but with all of the integrations they have on the Appexchange it’s a must-use. BTW, shameless self-promotion time: we have a free integration where you can have all of your Dasheroo dashboards right inside your Salesforce account. It’s pretty cool, give it a try.

On that note, we’ve been using Salesforce to gather leads and identify prospects. Once that prospect becomes a user we want to do 2 things: 1.) send an automated welcome email to anyone who signs up to become a user and 2.) move them along the sales cycle with a time-based nurture campaign. So we looked long and hard for a tool that a) was free and b) used within Salesforce. After a long time looking we found it.

So I felt compelled to write this after I spent countless hours to try to figure out how to do a simple welcome email from a Salesforce web-to-lead form and then a time-based nurture email campaign in Salesforce.com. None of it makes common sense so I’ll start off like that. Here we’ll talk about the welcome email campaign but you’ll see how to take it to the next level with a time-based nurture campaign, almost the same steps.

Step 1 – Set Up Your Email Communication Templates In SalesforceScreen Shot 2016-02-20 at 10.26.42 AM

You have to do this first, because the step you take later draw from your templates.

Setup > Communication Templates > Create or update email templates > New Template > Text or HTML > Save in Unified Public Templates.

Step 2 – Create an Email Alert

Yes “Email Alert” is a misnomer, alert implies that you want to alert one of your sales folks to that fact that something happened. But this is what you have to create in order to send your welcome email.

Setup > Create > Workflows & Approvals > Email Alerts > Create New Alert > Name it > Select Object  (in this case contact but it could be lead) > Select Email Template > Recipient Type: Search: Email Field for: Email (this is very important) > Add any additional email address to cc (we add the one that puts an activity in Salesforce so we know the email was sent > Select from address > Save

 

Salesforce welcome email

Step 3 – Process Builder

This is where the magic happens. It’s not totally intuitive but it’s really powerful.

Setup > Create > Workflows & Approvals > Process Builder > My Processes > New > Name it > Add an object (in this case Lead)

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 10.45.09 AM

Add criteria > Name Criteria (in this case mine was Agency WTLF – web-to-lead form) > Select Conditions are Met > Set Conditions (in this case based on Lead Source > Conditions: All of the conditions are met

Salesforce welcome email

Immediate Action > Add Action (since we want it to fire immediately after a lead is created): Select and Define Action > Email Alert (in this case) > Name It >

Salesforce welcome email

Start Typing the name of the email alert you want to go out to these people > Select it.

Salesforce welcome email

Save > Activate

Whew, really? Yep. You can do a lot with Process Builder like after an action you can schedule nurture campaigns, you’d select “Scheduled Actions” instead of “Immediate Actions” from the time a Salesforce record was created which we’re also doing.

Startup Lessons: Keeping Your Eyes on the Tiniest of KPIs

So I’m knee-deep in constructing a full 5-year financial plan, nailing our GTM strategy, building my sales organization, prepping an investor deck and all the other ‘big things’ CEOs do. You always need to focused on the activities that will maximize the value of the business.

But occasionally I need a mental break. That’s when I go into our CRM and really dig into a few of our recent customer’s profiles and usage, bang on our product or check out our website. It’s something everyone should take the time to do, whether it’s ‘someone else’s job’ or not.

The other day, I went to what we call our Insight Library page on our website. It’s where we list and show all the data sources we connect to. It’s an appealing looking graphic:

Dasheroo KPIs-providers

But I started to think as cool as it looked, it just wasn’t very readable; it was hard for me to find the ‘Constant Contact‘ tile, for instance. And if other folks were having a hard time seeing an app or data source they wanted, it could spell trouble for usage and conversion.

So I talked to two of my co-founders Alf and Janine and they agreed to take another look at the visual, with the aim of still having it look good, but more clean & functional:

Dasheroo KPIs-providers

The result was easily found in Google Analytics! In December we had 1123 clicks on the tiles, and as of January 31 we had 1780 clicks on the tiles, a huge increase. That was cool! It really didn’t take more than a few minutes to look at our KPIs and figure out where we could make some changes. You never know what nuggets you might find on quick treasure hunt like that.

OK, back to 5-year financial planning!

Startup Lessons: Setting Quotas for SaaS Salespeople

Sales cartoon - Dilbert

Image: Dilbert

Here at Dasheroo, 2016 is the year of sales! We launched our business dashboards mid-year 2015 and spent much of the
balance of the year adding more data sources, reports and other cool features. We’ve also been knee-deep, or maybe ‘ear-deep’ in listening to what our target users need in order to derive value from us. Because where value lies, sales happen.

And for sure, we earned some great customers in 2015. But now we have tons of learnings to leverage and an entire year to rock the sales machine.

So the next logical challenge is: how the hell to set aggressive, yet achievable, goals for my growing sales team that both challenges and fairly rewards them in our software-as-a-service (SaaS) model?

First you have to match your offering, complexity of sale and price (Annual Contract Value) to the appropriate level of sales person and their compensation. Meaning, don’t hire a 15-year enterprise sales veteran to sell a $3,000 per year SaaS deal. The math just won’t work. But typically that’s not an issue, as any enterprise sales person worth a damn wouldn’t take that job. The reverse can sometimes bite you though – don’t cheap out and hire a junior salesperson hoping they’ll land $1MM deals.

Here’s some top considerations:

  • Market segment(s) you are selling to. For instance, we sell to a lot of agencies, so we have a salesperson who has experience speaking to and selling into that unique market.
  • Type of sell. Is it a “1 call to close” or more of a traditional sale that goes thru the lead-qualify-demo-nurture-negotiate-close process. We’re hiring an SDR (Sales Development Rep) at a relatively low compensation package to handle the former type of sale, and our more experienced folks for the more process-driven sales.
  • Annual Contract Value (ACV). Typically the higher the ACV, the higher the quota and the higher the compensation you’ll pay a salesperson to generate those sales. And if you’re selling in to several segments (agencies, mid-size teams and enterprise) each will have its own ACV.
  • On Target Earnings (OTE). This is the total compensation (salary + commission) you’ll pay at each level. You may have to do some competitive research or speak with some industry colleagues. I’m lucky to have Rob Brewster, a kick-ass sales executive as an advisor. Bottom line, you have to have at least a ballpark on what sales folks are making at the low through high levels.

Once you have that baseline information nailed, it’s time to generate some quotas (your SaaS quotas should be on Annual Recurring Revenue). For SaaS businesses, the general guideline is to apply a multiplier of 3-4X to OTE. Here’s a quick example:

example of software as a service sales rep quota

Here, we began with estimated OTE for each level of sales, and applied a 3.5X OTE multiplier to arrive at the annual sales quota. Then you need a reality check based on average deal size (Target ACV). You have to balance that against the number of deals they’d have to close in a month or quarter to achieve that goal.

If it seems realistic, you’re onto something! If not, you need to take another look at one of your drivers: your pricing and ACV, your compensation plan or how you can accelerate the number of deals that can be closed in each month.

That’s why setting quotas for your SaaS salespeople is both a science and an art, as you can use some industry benchmarks as a framework for your plan, but it’s typical to nudge them a bit to create a reasonably aggressive plan that fits your business.

There’s a lot of other smart advice out there on this topic. Venture guy Jason Lemkin has written several excellent articles, and I learned a lot from him while establishing our plan.

What’s your experience, challenges and success creating your SaaS sales plan and setting quotas for your sales team? Let me know!

How Inbound Marketing & Data Appends Get Us Enterprise Users

Let’s get one thing straight: Inbound Marketing can be a thankless slog! But, using Inbound Marketing can be your secret weapon in driving sustained awareness, traffic and leads. Since we don’t rely on, or plan to spend on, Google Adwords to drive leads for us anytime soon, we roll up our sleeves and drive leads the old fashioned ‘earned’ way.

So first, what is Inbound Marketing? At its most basic, it involves promoting your product or company via content marketing, social media and SEO. The content can be in the form of articles (like this one!), videos, webinars, infographics, white papers, & case studies, that are then distributed, or published, on blogs, podcasts and social media. And if done well, always considers SEO via the keywords that are selected in each piece of content. Our buddies over at Hubspot also have a great article and infographic here.

Virtually all of our 10,000+ users have been driven via Inbound Marketing. Plus, we get a great viral kick due to our business freemium model.

So, once you get users to sign up and start using your product, the role of Inbound Marketing has just begun. You need to continue with focused case studies, videos, and whitepapers to nurture them through the purchase funnel.

I’ll talk more about how to use Inbound Marketing in the nurture to close process in a future post. But for now, I’m going to talk about the next step we use to identify and focus on larger, enterprise users for our small, eager sales team.

And that step is data append. It’s exactly what it sounds like: you match up contact info on your user and use a service to append additional data to identify big opportunities based on information like revenue size, number of employees, and job title.

We use a great service called InsideView for our data append and we’re very happy with the results. Since we currently ask for very little information when a user signs up, InsideView fills in the gaps where they can, adding in valuable info like company name, revenue, employee size, industry, address, and contact information:

 

Dasheroo's Inside View

Without InsideView it would have been a manual process if any to determine that this company has thousands of employees and over a billion dollars in revenue!

 

Now here’s the next part: we are avid users of Salesforce, so all of our InsideView appended data resides at the account level in SFDC. Our awesome CMO Janine created a custom alert in SFDC that shoots our sales team an email she calls ‘Big Money!’

That way, Mimi and me are immediately notified when an enterprise level user signs up so we can reach out to offer a demo or any other assistance to help them, and hopefully get a sale. We now see that about 5% of all of our new users are ‘enterprise’ users.

So our recipe for enterprise lead generation success? A strong combination of driving users and leads via Inbound Marketing, building out the user profile with data appends from InsideView, and then piping that information into our CRM for automated alerts to our sales team. It’s working pretty well so far!

What’s your approach? Let me know!

Startup Lessons: Your Go To Market Strategy

Screen Shot 2015-12-27 at 11.51.27 AMWhat’s a Go To Market strategy, you ask? Simple in concept, it translates to this: how you are going to achieve world domination for your business! It’s what I’m knee-deep in planning here during the holidays. It’s actually GTM V2, as we did an initial plan last year but we’ve learned a lot since we launched in May, and it’s time to revisit and go into more detail for 2016 and beyond.

A successful GTM plan should address these 5 main factors:

  • Target market segment(s) – discrete definition of who you are selling to
  • Channels – how you are going to reach them
  • Messaging – the problem you solve for each segment, in real world terms
  • Pricing & Packaging – ‘the value’, right-sized to each segment
  • CAC Model (Customer Acquisition Cost) – how your sales & marketing costs balance against new sales

And what you use your GTM for:

  • Guide your pricing strategy
  • Identify your key business drivers
  • Develop your financial model
  • Align your team around clear goals & priorities
  • And, if you are planning on raising money, it ill be a key component of your investor presentation

In 2015 we proved out an important keystone of our GTM: With virtually zero advertising, we attracted 10,000+ users in over 110 countries. We did this building a great foundation of product, freemium offering, lots of content and search engine optimization and that lovely thing called word of mouth. We also proved out that a certain amount of them would find us valuable enough to pay us.

That’s great, but 2016 is really our year of GTM. The difference to 2015 is attacking each of our audience segments with a specific channel, messaging, pricing and sales plan.

Fortunately, our founding team have all built successful startups so it’s not our first rodeo. But it is the first time we’re laying out the groundwork for our global domination at the level of detail we are now. It’s challenging, fun and frustrating all at once. There’s a lot of moving parts and a lot of hard decisions to make.

We also have the good fortune to be able to lean on Judy Loehr from our lead investor Cloud Apps Capital Partners. Judy has GTM in her DNA, let’s just say. She recently spoke at Zuora‘s Subscribed 15 Growth Conference, where she explained the necessity of developing a solid GTM, or perish.

So, whether you’re a startup like Dasheroo, or a more mature company, do you have a solid Go To Market plan for your business? If not, you better get on it, because especially in the tech world, your competition probably does!