After 16 months of working together, Whitney helped People Data Labs:
- Achieve 1.8MM in ARR and another 200K in transactional contracts
- Grow ACV from $1,200 to $67,000
- Drop the average sales cycle from 57 days to 18 days
- Achieve an LTV to CAC ratio of 35:1
- Grow from 2 – 11 people
- Raise a Seed round led by Semil Shah with Haystack, and Leo Polovets with Susa
Case Study: People Data labs
What is People Data Labs
People Data Labs (“PDL”), is a people data API-based technology company. With over 1.2 billion unique person profiles across the globe, PDL offers over 100 data points on every person profile, making person profile management faster and more efficient for hiring, sales, and marketing. Current customers include Adidas, eBay, ARM, and Madison Logic.
People Data Labs (PDL, formerly TalentIQ) began working with The Sales Method in 2017. At the time, the company consisted of Sean Thorne (CEO), his co-founder Henry (CTO), and an MVP. Neither had prior sales experience, and each had dropped out of college at 20 years old to pursue entrepreneurship. People Data Labs was Sean’s second company, but his first in the B2B space.
Before meeting Whitney, Sean had sold a few PDL prosumer licenses (under 20K), but was struggling to sell team licenses. After hearing Whitney speak at an event, Sean knew he needed to reach out for support with PDL’s sales process.
PDL was less than 6 months old when Sean and Whitney met, and the structure was quite simple. Sean led sales while Henry built the product. Sean reached out to Whitney at a time when the young company needed to make additional sales to solidify its product market fit.
“I had no idea how to even get people to be interested in taking a demo, navigate sales processes, negotiate, go through legal, etc. I am very much a ‘I’m going to figure it out person’, and typically cannot take coaching points from most people.”
Though every product and market has specific nuances that drive the success or failure of a sale, the general workings of each stage of a B2B sale are well known. However, if you’ve never run the playbooks before, it can be a daunting process, so finding support in the form of a sales coach can be a winning strategy for you and your business. Thankfully, Whitney had plenty of the right experience selling new products, having launched five herself before starting The Sales Method. Thus, Whitney and Sean started meeting on a weekly basis.
Whitney provided value from Day 1. In fact, we closed 2 $100k deals within 2 months of working together
Founder Led Sales
Developing a Repeatable Sales Process
Phase 1: Founder Led Sales
Identified Repeatable Use Case:
In their first meeting, Whitney and Sean sat down for a pipeline review. There was one account, an enterprise level bank we won’t mention by name, that Sean was particularly optimistic about. He’d spoken with 37 people at the company, granted them access to the product for free for several months with no end in sight, and still had not been given an opportunity to talk about pricing.
Though PDL was talking to people in the HR industry, the company lacked a clear tech stack and target company profile. What they did have was a clear pain point – the majority of companies Sean spoke with identified outdated people data as a significant problem for their company. Without a clearly defined customer and use case, it can be hard to position a product for effective demand generation.
As the two dug deeper, they identified a clear use case: People data enrichment via an API, the idea being to sell to tech companies that manage people data as part of their product.
Clarified Product Offering:
People Data Labs started off in the HR space (hence the name, TalentIQ). In the process of building his network of HR professionals, Sean was introduced to the CEO of an ATS (Applicant Tracking Service). During their conversation, the CEO of the ATS requested an API of the data PDL provided in the MVP platform. Working with Whitney, Sean was able to close a 6-figure deal with this company for the API within 6 weeks. Shortly after, Whitney introduced Sean to the founder of another company that was looking to enrich their people database. Within 2 weeks they’d closed another 6-figure account. They were only just getting started.
Shortly after, PDL pivoted from an MVP platform that customers had to log into, to an API that automatically updated and enriched existing people databases. This dramatically expanded their market from HR to technology platforms like ATSs, CRMs and MASs.
Built Repeatable Demand Generation Process:
Now that the use case and product offering were clear, the duo could more easily define target customers and buyers. Not only that, but they could also focus on developing a repeatable process for customer engagement. Knowing that founders of technology companies spent lots of time on Twitter, the duo thought it would be a good channel for marketing.
Out of date people data was a problem for any platform containing people data, but most tech founders and product teams did not know how big of a problem it was. Sean found a report that highlighted the inaccuracy of data in platforms with a subset of stats on people data. Citing and repackaging this information, Sean designed a People Data Report that they then advertised on Twitter. The report told the story of the trends driving the problem and the cost to companies (ie. the tech company’s customers). The report framed the problem perfectly.
While advertising the report to their ideal customer profile, the team found that if someone downloaded the report, they had a 64% conversion rate to a qualifying meeting. Anyone in marketing will know that a conversion rate this high is basically unheard of. Given that the average annual contract value for a handful of customers utilizing the API at the time was around $67,000, the team had quite a bit of room to play with in the customer lifetime value to customer acquisition cost ratio (CAC to LTV ratio). It was time to optimize the sales process.
Phase 2: Developing a Repeatable Sales Process
Sean and Whitney had a repeatable Demand Gen process, so it was time to hand it off to a Marketing Manager and Sales Development Rep and streamline the sales process for scalability.
Demo/Proof of Concept/Proof of Value
As an early stage company, one of the core concerns for any customer is that you can do what you say you can do. This is the reason most prospects will ask to do a trial, proof of concept or proof of value before signing a longer term agreement. This can lengthen sales processes and increase customer acquisitions costs. As a result, finding a fast and simple way to show the quality and value of your product is critical to scaling your sales process.
At PDL, the ability to enrich customer profiles with key pieces of information utilizing available profile data was the proof point customers were looking for. However, prospects were looking for different data points post-enrichment. Certain profiles in the PDL database were more complete than others, and as a result, identifying the customers that fit best was incredibly important. In addition, providing the customer with a way to run their own tests on the API reduced internal technical support costs, built customer confidence about simplicity of integration, and sped up the sale. After working with our internal engineering team to manually enrich data it became clear that providing API documentation and an API test key was the simplest way to address the needs of prospects during the sales process. Exposing the API documentation dramatically cut down the time to close from months to days.
Discovery + Sales Decks
For any company, young or mature, the price point and model are two of the most difficult questions to answer. Just like a product, they are always a work in progress and should be seen as such. Companies should constantly be reevaluating options like:
- Volume, per seat, or hybrid
- Whether to list pricing or not to list pricing
- Whether to charge for integrations, setup, and support
- Offering monthly, annual or multi-year subscriptions
- Fixed or variable pricing
And these are just a few variables to consider. Each has tradeoffs and presents challenges. The answer is rarely clear and never easy. This was no different for PDL.
After quite a bit of trial and error the team landed on fixed rate, volume-based, annual and multi-year contracts. Though variable pricing would maximize the value of contracts for PDL, customers’ finance teams were rarely comfortable with a variable subscription. The team also found that the annual and multi-year agreements, paid upfront, provided valuable working capital that allowed PDL to scale faster.
In order to scale sales, it is essential to have standardized sales stages that are tracked in an effective CRM system. At PDL, sales were being tracked in a complex Excel spreadsheet, which can be effective when one person manages the entire process. For an organization looking to scale, a spreadsheet was no longer going to cut it.
The team reluctantly decided to implement SalesForce. Though it was more complex than PDL needed at the time, the team knew that SalesForce was the CRM they would need long term, and decided it would be better to implement it before building out the sales team. The initial implementation and data transfer took about 4 weeks, and follow up configuration took an additional 6 weeks.
Phase 3: Scaling Sales
It was clear something was working. Sean had more meetings than he could handle and our new SDR was consistently exceeding quota. We needed to hand off the mid-market deals that were coming in so Sean could focus on enterprise accounts and product roadmap. It was time to bring on additional sales hires.
- Outlined the role
- Scoped requirements of a new hire
- Reviewed similar job recs from companies at a similar stage
- Wrote the job rec
- Posted on Angellist and Linkedin
- Reached out to networks to identify potential candidates
- Outlined the hiring process: Steps, who managed each step, questions they asked, what specifically to look for
- Developed a candidate scorecard to align on good, better, and best candidates
With this process in place, the team quickly found two new AEs that fit the bill. One ended up passing on the position due to a misalignment on compensation requirements, but the other negotiated and accepted the role.
When training, Whitney likes to take an approach she likes to call layering. To develop a strong understanding of the company, market, and sales process, you have to teach someone why to do something, not just what to do. With an understanding of why, a new hire can bring their own experience and learnings to the table to make the company better. The idea is to teach new team member’s a company’s first principles, so that they can bring the most to the table. Working with Sean, Whitney put together a training program to get the team ramped up as quickly as possible. Not only was a quick ramp important from a revenue perspective, but it was also important for time management for Sean.
The first AE hired closed their first five-figure deal in their 7th week. Their second came just two weeks later. The team was on a roll.
Designing a comp plan for the first sales hire can be a bit of a guessing game, especially when the only other person selling the product is the founder. There are quite a few reports published every year that provide principles and benchmarks that can be helpful guides when conversion rates aren’t crystal clear across the funnel. With the data available, Whitney and Sean put together a simple comp plan that fit within the standard SaaS ratio of 5-8x OTE to Quota and set expectations with the new hire that the plan would likely be revised about every 6 months as data came in.
Sales Innovation Weeklies
Post product market fit (PMF), there is a seldom talked about stage that early stage startups go through: MVPing Go-to-Market Fit (GTMF). In this stage of a company post-PMF and pre-Scale, the startup needs to design a repeatable scalable go-to-market with a reasonable customer acquisition cost (CAC) to customer lifetime value (LTV) ratio. Whitney takes an approach of looking at GTM as a product, where each step in designing a GTM is A/B tested and optimized. To identify the areas most ripe for testing and future optimization, Whitney has a meeting she likes to run weekly with the sales org: Sales Innovation Weeklies.
The goal of Sales Innovation Weeklies is two fold:
- Establish a culture of an innovative, growth-mindset across the sales organization
- Identify opportunities for increased efficiency in the sales process that can be optimized with technology, marketing support, and a streamlined sales funnel
These weekly meetings allow the sales organization to take an active role in the functioning of the organization and keep the feedback loop between product, marketing, and sales just as tight as it was when the founder was leading sales.
Given the success around the hiring and GTM, it was important that Sean had a solid framework for running sales upon Whitney’s completion of her advisory relationship. The last step in this process was to hand the pipeline reviews over to Sean for deal management and forecasting. Seeing as Whitney had been running these with Sean since day one of working together, this was a simple transition.
After 16 months, it was clear the GTM was working. Sean closed a $300K contract in less than 30 days and a $400K renewal in back to back months. PDL had an SDR and AE performing on target with solid conversion rates (who are still at the company today), Salesforce up and running, and they’d raised their Seed round.
- People Data Labs is now the market leader in an industry they pioneered.
- Sean ran sales for PDL until early 2020 when they hired a CRO to ramp up and scale the revenue org.
Though undisclosed, the company is currently valued at 100s of millions with 10s of millions in revenue.