Depending on who you ask, “hacking” means very different things.
For some people, it’s accessing information, for others, it’s shortcuts that improve your life. For Max Altschuler, the CEO and Founder of Sales Hacker Inc., it’s helping startup sales team grow — and grow fast.
Altschuler started Sales Hacker to help B2B companies and sales reps build modern, efficient, and high tech sales processes that generate more revenue using less resources. He knows first-hand the challenges facing B2B salespeople today.
Altschuler worked in business development, first at Udemy, and then as VP of Business Development at AttorneyFee. His experiences growing and accelerating those two teams drove him to build Sales Hacker into a community and series of must-attend events for sales professionals.
With Sales Stack 2015 coming up in a few weeks, we asked Altschuler to share the story of Sales Hacker’s growth, and his own story of hacking his way to sales success.
1. What inspired you to start Sales Hacker? What were you looking to accomplish by building this community?
We started as a small, informal MeetUp in San Francisco. Back when I was at Udemy, we were doing some really interesting hacky things within the sales process. There were other people that I knew in the startup scene doing some interesting things on their sales teams as well. We all wanted to get together and share knowledge.
Especially at a startup, you really need to use your resources wisely. Every advantage that you can possibly get your hands on is vital to your startup. When you have six months left of runway, you’ve really got to hit those numbers. It’s not like a big company where you have a territory and target market, like chiropractors in Canton, Ohio. You’re a startup, and your territory is everything. It’s a massive land grab, and you need to go out and hunt for it.
Especially at a startup, you really need to use your resources wisely.
- Max Altschuler
About two or three years ago, developers really started to really build for salespeople. Data is cheaper and more accessible than ever before, making it easy to build these tools. Salespeople who embrace the technology are going to get ahead. We created Sales Hacker to allow salespeople to share new hacks, tactics and information, so they can take advantage of these opportunities.
2. How did it go from a little MeetUp locally into this huge event series?
We were doing the MeetUp for about a year, and then I left AttorneyFee. I asked the group, ‘Who would want to be involved if we did this as a small conference in San Francisco?’ It was going to be something small — just 100 people. Then, the next thing I knew, it was about 300 people. And the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.
The wave is just starting for sales automation, compared to marketing automation where the wave has already swelled and you’ve already sorted out who’s who. You look at the community and you’ve seen the IPOs and the billion dollar acquisitions, but I think sales tech is just starting. Right now, people are finally starting to build products for salespeople.
If you look at marketing automation compared to sales automation, there are 16.5 million people listed in the US in sales on LinkedIn compared to about 5 million in marketing. You’re looking at more than three times as many people in the market. I think it can be big and we’re in at the very beginning. There’s a lot of education that needs to be done. Hopefully we’re the ones that can bring that to the community.
3. You mentioned your experiences at Udemy and AttorneyFee. How did those jobs influence your thought process behind founding Sales Hacker? What did you learn that you’ve applied to the business today?
Both those jobs allowed me to cut my teeth and really do the sales hacker work leveraging all these new tools that are available. I love new tools. I’m always the early adopter. I love to get my hands on something, play around with it and find a way to plug it into the sales process. The experience at both those companies allowed me to get really good, hands-on experience with some of the new sales tools, and then find really interesting ways to grow our community month over month at a pretty impressive rate.
I took that and brought it to Sales Hacker. We eat our own dog food — we preach it and then we do it. So when we’re filling up conferences, we do a lot of the things that we need to do to get people to buy tickets, to get sponsorships sold, and to grow the community to make sure we have a wide reach. Everything I learned at Udemy and at AttorneyFee put me in the position that I’m in today.
4. What’s your personal definition of sales hacking? Many people consider hacks to be shortcuts, but is it something more than that?
I don’t know if it’s necessarily shortcuts, but it’s definitely using fewer resources to generate more revenue. It can be technological, it can be human capital, it can be financial, it can be psychological. There are a lot of different things that most people just don’t know how to do or don’t know that it’s possible to do. There are things that you can inject into your sales process that might speed up the deal, that can optimize and make your sales process more efficient.
Sales Hacking is using fewer resources to generate more revenue.
- Max Altschuler
All these different tools and technologies that are available to you — whether or not they’re made for sales or not — and can make your team a lot more efficient. Sales hacking is really just getting creative and figuring out ways to generate more revenue using less resources. If you can do that at a startup level, you’ll have a huge advantage over your competitors and everyone else in the space. Even at a corporate level, if you’re an individual rep or you’re a manager of a team, how much more efficient can your team possibly get? I’m guessing they can get a lot more efficient.
5. What’s a good example of a hack that a sales leader or a business development rep would use?
There are a lot of things you can do there at the top of the funnel. I don’t think a lot of people would go out and get their own data until recently. For example, people were buying leads lists from Data.com, when you could go out and build a web scraper and hire a Virtual Assistant for $3.50 an hour and get leads at a much better price — fresh leads and targeted leads.
A little bit further down the funnel, there’s psychological tactics you can use in closing the deal. There’s body language strategies — if somebody has their arms crossed, how do you get them to uncross their arms and open up to you? Maybe come around the table, slide a piece of paper in front of him, hand him a pen, pull your computer in front of him. There’s plenty of different ways you can hack the efficiency of your sales process and your sales team.
6. You also wrote a book called “Hacking Sales: The Playbook for Building a High Velocity Sales Machine”. Was that also based off of your experiences in building this business?
It’s based off my experiences in building the sales process from end to end. In the book we showcase about 150 sales tools built for the seller specifically. It outlines my process from the top of the funnel all the way to a closed deal handoff to the customer success rep.
I’d say most of it is on the top of the funnel. It’s really about leveraging technology and the sales process. We don’t get too granular on things like how to send a cold email, because there’s plenty of content about that on the Internet. It’s more about the process, and here’s where this piece fits in and can improve your sales results. Here’s how you do it, here are some tips and tricks and hacks. And finally, here’s a couple of pieces of software that might make your life a little bit easier or can automate pieces of this.
7. What are some of your favorite sales automation tools that you would recommend to people who want to hack their sales team?
I’m a big fan of data and transparency in e-mailing, so you can use ToutApp or Yesware or Cadence or Sidekick to send emails. Every sales rep should definitely understand open rates, click-through rates, and more. That allows you to optimize your messaging in emails, optimize your subject lines, and optimize your call to action. I like also like:
Any tool that helps you get high quality data on your ideal customer profile and really enables you to build fresh targeted lists, I love those services. We highlighted 150 tools in the Hacking Sales book and we didn’t even go into tools for management. I think we gave a couple tools to plug in the back that were manager-focused like InsightSquared and Ambition. There are so many tools out there now for salespeople, which is fantastic. Hopefully, we’ll start seeing more and more companies start adopting these tools.
There are so many tools out there now for salespeople, which is fantastic.
- Max Altschuler
If you have Salesforce and you have e-mail, there’s really so many tools that you should be piecing together on top of those two layers. A lot of technology companies are early adopters and it’ll be interesting once it starts to bleed outside of technology and you start seeing oil and gas, education, and other industries and verticals get involved in these technologies.
8. What are some specific metrics that you believe sales teams should be tracking, and how can data analytics help guide sales growth?
There’s overall and then there’s granular data to track. If you get pretty granular about the metrics all the way down to your open rates, your click-through rates, and then to the next level of SQLs, MQLs, and then up to the next level, your rep’s quota. There are high level views of the metrics that you should track and there’s lower level metrics. I think the more granular that you can get without going overboard and micromanaging, the better you can tweak things and optimize your process. That’s why I love all these tools that make it super transparent for you to figure out what’s working and what’s not.
As far as the specific metrics go, I think it’s different for all sales teams. You really have to dig in and figure out what can we track, and if we’re tracking this, what action can we pull out of this that can improve our process? For example, if you have a poor open rate on emails, then you can probably say, “Our subject lines are terrible. So we can fix our subject lines and try again.”
Take a subset of your list and go test your subject lines.
You’re doing that all the way throughout this sales process, throughout your sales team. Every metric that you want to track, just make sure it’s tied to an action. If it’s x, what do we do to make it 2x. How do we take this metric that we’re tracking, and what is the action that comes from that? How do we optimize this action going forward?
9. What is coming next for Sales Hacker? What else are you hoping to do? Where else are you hoping to grow?
We’re partnered with Jason Lemkin and SaaStr, which is a site for SaaS founders. We just ran the 2015 event with him, which was fantastic. We’re launching the 2016 event and hoping to get about 3000 people at that one. That’s going to be a big one.
We’re also trying to get the series of events in as many cities as possible. We’re in about 26 cities now and honestly if somebody is talking about B2B sales, I want them to do it under the context of our community. Whether it’s 120 people in Dublin, or 3 people in Turkmenistan, as as long as people are getting together to talk about sales, I’m pretty happy about it. We’re just trying to grow it as big as we can.
If you’d like to learn more about Max Altschuler and Sales Hacker, visit saleshacker.com or read his book Hacking Sales: The Playbook for Building a High Velocity Sales Machine.