Mr. Startup Salesrep, the herd mentality is killing you!

“If everyone jumped off a bridge would you do that too?”

I heard this one too many times as a kid. I know the answer is supposed to be “no”. That’s what my parents and teachers and $6/hr babysitter would train me to say in this situation. But even as I think about it now… I think the answer is yes.

I mean, if I’m at a bridge where literally everyone I can see is running onto the bridge and jumping off of it, I’ve got to believe something is going on.

  1. There’s a mass disaster and group consensus is the best jumped-off-a-bridgechance at survival is under that bridge
  2. There’s something awesome under that bridge that is worth jumping for
  3. This is a really rad cliff dive and the thing to do at this place

I hate to say this publicly. I know I’m supposed to be my own person, but when forced with this decision, my answer wouldn’t be a quick no. To be honest, I’d probably jump.

Even more honestly, I’ve jumped off of bridges in this situation :- /


Ah! The Herd Mentality

Look, I’m pretty susceptible to peer pressure. I mean, I live in the sales world after-all. But I don’t think I’m alone here. In fact, believing that “everyone’s doing it” is one of man’s most common subconscious factors in decision making. And it can often be a hindrance if you’re trying to sell into a new market.

One of my favorite books is Influence, by Robert Cialdini. Cialdini is a social scientist that cuts to the core of why people do the things they do. One experiment discussed in his book is Cialdini’s offer to help a hotel in Phoenix, Arizona. The business wanted to encourage guests to re-use their towels. Re-washing hundreds of towels each new day proved an economic and environmental burden. To affect guests’ behavior, Robert’s team randomly assigned four messaging tests to hotel guests. He tracked the effectiveness of each:

Message 1:  asks guests to reuse their towels “for the the good of the environment”.

Message 2: asks guests to “cooperate with the hotel, becoming a partner in this environmentally conscious cause.” This was 12% less effective than message 1.

Message 3: Claimed “the majority of guests in the hotel reused their towels at least once during their stay”, which was 18% more effective than message 1.

Message 4: “…a majority of people in this room have reused their towel”

Which message do you think was the most effective? The 4th message saw a 33% increase in responsive behavior compared with the Message 1.

Cialdini ran plenty of other experiments in the book. One experiment tracks energy usage in people’s homes after four cautionary messages are delivered to the homeowners. Another looks for the best way to ask national forest hikers stop stealing pieces of their trail. Over and over again the answer was clear: people respond to messages suggesting “everyone else is doing it.”

“How their peers behave is a leading indicator to what we think we should be doing.”


The reason? Humans respond to the social norms. How their peers behave is a leading indicator to what we think we should be doing. Cialdini claims this to be a primitive instinct. “On some base level, it’s survival recognition: these are the people who are most like me—we share the same circumstances,” said Cialdini. He sees the power of this impulse less as peer pressure and more as peer information.

Cialdini adds, “Birds flock together in very neat patterns, fish school, cattle herd, social insects swarm together. So this is something that doesn’t require a lot of cognitive capacity in order to trigger the conformity. All you need to do is to see what those around you, like you, are doing. And it’s a good shortcut to deciding what you should do in a situation.”


Nobody gets fired for choosing IBM (except the startup sales rep)

There’s an old saying that “Nobody gets fired for choosing IBM”. In short, the “safe choice” is the product that everyone else has. So as a startup salesman trying to disrupt that incumbent, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

Speaking simply, in sales you typically have 3 different types of prospects 15% are early adopters, ~70% are the average, and another 15% are the laggards, those least likely to adopt a new product/idea.

Adoption Curve

For those selling startup products this can be a challenge. Likely, you’re selling some revolutionary product that’s disrupting the way regular X works. Your product may be more efficient, more effective, even remarkably cheaper than your competitors. But, no one’s ever heard of it. We, at Foursquare, have a great brand name, that most people recognize. We still run into major problems here.

The first 15% early adopters can often be easy targets. They’re likely excited by and interested by trying new things. Unfortunately, that doesn’t necessarily mean that their boss / board / team is as excited. Even for the early adopter, buying a new product is often an uphill battle. Which, they’re happy to help in, but don’t always win.

For everyone else, there might be some sex appeal when it comes to trying a new product. But when push comes to shove, it’s often not worth the hassle. “I don’t want to be the guinea pig. Let me see it working and then come talk to me.”

The inertia required to uproot an old incumbent in favor of a new fangled product is large. Most people in this world report to a boss. And so, your buyer likely doesn’t “live and die” by the company’s success. They don’t stay up at night thinking about ACME’s marketing challenges. Most employees simply want to keep their job, look good to the boss and maybe get a pat-on-the-back every so often. For those people, the risk of choosing an unknown company is great.

Let’s look at the challenges ahead of someone who would like to chose an unknown product, over an incumbent contender. For example, at Foursquare we’re selling advertising. We know our solution is a game changer. Here’s what a marketer we’re speaking with is up against if they chose our new, revolutionary solution over what they’re currently buying. To get Foursquare approved, the buyer needs to:

  • Know why it’s better than what they’re currently using. 
  • Understand what the drawbacks of switching might be, and why the pros outweigh the cons.
  • Learn new reporting, logging, dashboards etc. etc.
  • Then, he’s going to need to train the rest of his team, his boss, and anyone else involved on the new process
  • Ensure the new product satisfies legal, financial and other company stakeholders
  • Pitch this internally to anywhere from 3-10 people and make sure they understand all of the above information.

Then, if you chose the unknown startup over the obvious incumbent and it goes poorly you’re a real fool, AND you had to do extra work to get it there. That’s pretty tough.

But let’s look at the bright side, if Mr. marketer chooses the new flashy startup and it goes well, he’s a hero right!? Usually, not. That’s his job, an employee’s supposed to pick things that work. Good job! Now, if you chose the well known solution and it fails, well that’s the logical choice that’s what everyone’s using, sure it has it’s limitations, but can’t blame you. As the old saying goes, no one ever gets fired for choosing IBM.

Wow, why ever chose something new?


Use the force, Luke

So, we know that this force is out there. As a startup salesman we can either a) admit that this job is too hard and go get a job at IBM or b) use this force in our favor. A little jiu-jitsu if you will.

We know that it’s much easier for people to make the decision that everyone else is making. So appeal to that sense. Rather than spending so much time pushing how revolutionary your product is, and all the technical differences from the old guard, spend some time talking about the success stories.

And it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. Knowing, up-front, the tendency to chose the path others are choosing is subsciously working in each decision maker, do  your best to give clients the security of safety in numbers. Using simple phrases like, “brands like yours often prefer,” “Typically what we do at this point” etc, helps your customer to feel like you’ve been there before.

At my previous company we used location signals to leverage. We built into our CRM a list of all of the businesses in a 5 mile radius that were using our product. So our reps had the intel to drop in names when necessary.

It’s important to know who your buyer is and what their motivations are, but if there’s a chance they fall into the majority or laggard category, it’s helpful to keep the Herd Mentality in the back of your mind, and deliver some comfort.

Often times, recognizing the forces against you, understanding them, and harnessing can turn even the biggest obstacles into your largest ally.  

And mom, just kidding about that jumping off the bridge stuff ;-)

Interview with Sales Hacker

A few weeks back, I had a good convo w/ Sean Daly from the SalesBlazer org at Sean asked if he could post to his followers and since he did such a good job organizing and doing the work for me, I thought I’d post here as well.

Follow Sean for some good old fashioned sales talk @SalesBlazer

Interview with Dave Greenberger, National Director, Sales and Merchant Partnerships at Foursquare.

What is it like working at a big start up versus a small one and how do your responsibilities differ?

Interesting question. Unfortunately, I might not be able to give the answer that you want to hear, because at Foursquare we really operate like we’re still a scrappy start up. Although there’s lots of people at Foursquare, I came on the sales team with only a handful of people there. I started my Local team from scratch. Ever since then I have treated my team like a small start up within the company, and we still treat it that way.

The big difference is that I have a large brand behind me now. When I say, “Hey, I’m calling from Foursquare,” people say, “Oh, interesting.” Instead of, “I’m calling from,” and they say, “What the hell is that?” You get a nicer reception from a known brand. The resources are nice; we have so many resources here and so many smart people to bounce ideas off of that you don’t get at a smaller company. It’s really nice to be able to have those things, but I always operate like I have zero money, zero backing, and try and scrap everything I can together. Because if you treat yourself like a big company when you’re starting out, you’re going to get slow, you’re going to get bloated and eventually that small scrappy guy is going to catch up to you.

It’s really important to stay away from the mentality of getting slow and acting corporate. So it’s especially important to constantly find the next new thing; stay ahead. At Google for instance, a sales rep can really rest on the fact that everyone knows/respects the name. I’ve known sales reps that used to work at big companies and they would kill it at — just saying, “Hey, I’m from Company X,” could sometimes get you a sign up, and their co was happy with relatively low signup #’s . Then you come in and you start to work for me, it’s like, “Holy, shit. This stuff’s hard.” You need to stay on your toes and you need to really, really keep working at it… I always press my guys to stay ahead of the curve, no matter how well received our brand benefit is, or how many resources we have.

What would you say is your biggest challenge, and what did you do to overcome that challenge, in any point in your career?

The hardest thing I’ve had to deal with thus far was moving from a sales rep to manager. It was a really, really tough thing to be working working with my peers one day and needing to tell them what to do the next. Coming out of that, the main thing that I learned was that managing anyone (I don’t care if they’re your best friend, rookie, or a forty year old sales veteran) is never to tell them what to do, your job is to whatever possible to help them reach their goals.

First thing’s first, figure out what your salesperson’s goals are. It shouldn’t be something that you dictate, the goals should be those that you come up with together and everyone thinks is attainable. That’s not just like, “Your goal is to hit forty sales in a month, or ten thousand dollars in revenue.” It’s, “Okay, those numbers are important, but also why do you want to hit those numbers? How much commission do you want to make and why do you want to make that money? Where do you want to go in your career?” Find out what those levers and incentives are, and then make sure you’re always communicating those back to the salesperson.

What advice do you have for people who work for a bad manager … how would you suggest they navigate that situation? 

Although tough, being on a different page than your manager is surely something you can get around. I was taught early the need to “manage your manager”. What I mean by that is, imagine that your manager is a sales prospect; you do all these things to understand what their needs are, understand their problems, figure out how you can solve their problems, and then work out how you can handle those objections to make sure the prospect eventually want to work with you. Well, do the same thing with your manager.

You need to be really clear and up front about what their objectives are; ask the right questions. What are your “prospects” (managers) goals. Just like how I mentioned the manager needs to understand the rep’s motivations, the rep needs to understand the manager’s. Of course, you are going to have bad managers that just don’t get it (i.e. don’t really know or communicate their objectives). Just try to have really clear communication about what the stated goals are and make sure you go above and beyond them. Manage the manager.

What is your suggestion for salespeople just starting out?

“The limit does not exist”. I was just reading a book about Takeru Kobayashi, the guy who broke the World Record for number of hot dogs eaten in a single sitting. The previous record was something like twenty-five and one eighth hot dogs in twelve minutes. Kobayashi, completely unknown in the sport, came in and ate fifty-nine hot dogs in that same amount of time.

There were two things that set him apart: 1) He attacked the problem in a completely different way 2) He refused to believe that the previous record was the real limit.

He tested everything that he did. He measured, monitored and tracked every new experiment. Eventually, by just focusing on the process, he came up with something that worked and blew the record away.

When I first started in sales, I had no idea what the limit was. We just focused on the process; I monitored, tracked and measured everything I could to reach the most people as possible and close the most deals. I would make two hundred or more calls a day if that’s what it took. It wasn’t until four or five years later that I realized that the numbers I was hitting were crazy. Later, I was tasked with training the salesforce at a large company that temporarily absorbed our startup. This company was known to be the standard for local sales when I had started my career. When I went in to train their salespeople I realized they weren’t making more than forty calls a day. Forty-five would be insane in that environment. If that were my first job, there would be no way I would  have hit the crazy two-hundred calls I was making in a day.

Everywhere I go I can outwork the majority of people at the company. To me, it’s not even working hard. The early work has raised the bar on my frame of reference past those “known” limits, it’s easy now. Bring on the hotdogs.

How a good, persistent followup can work for you

A little story:
In 2008 I had no money. I was living in a 10 person apartment in Chinatown, NYC. It was everything I could do to get my rent under $1000/month.  I had my first real job out of school: cold calling gyms + health clubs. And i was looking to make/ save money in any way possible.

My company was My job was to sell health clubs $5 leads; people requesting a free one-week pass to their club. Being the resourceful entrepreneur that I am, I decided that via Gymticket I at the least had my gym memberships taken care of.

My obvious plan was to sign up for a free week “Gymticket” at every club in Manhattan and be well on my way to free gyms for life. I didn’t count on running into a great salesperson.


The inbound request

First stop, New York Sports Club at 65th and Columbus, 3 blocks from my office.

When I got to the gym and gave them my “ticket” I was greeted by Shane, a genuine Irishman with the accent to prove it. Shane took my pass, set me up, & walked me through my free tour for trial guests (Ah, didn’t think about the tour part, this is going to be a pain in the ass to do every week with each new gym…). He paraded me through the weight room, the cardio, the spin studio (who cares!). The “state of the art” (read:1980’s) treadmills, the locker room… before finally letting me on my way. I hustled through, got a good workout in and got back to work before lunch break was over. Success.NYSC

Next day: show up, and don’t have a lock. Worried about all of those (imaginary) thieves that walk around gyms looking to steal $20 out of each open locker, I asked Shane if they had any locks to buy at the front desk. None. But, Shane was a nice guy. So he went out of his way and let me use his personal lock. What a guy! I locked my stuff up, had a nice little leg day and again, back in time for afternoon calls. What a scheme I had going!


Fast forward one week later, my trial is over and I’m ready to move on to the next gym. Shane, like any good salesperson, gives me a call. I quickly tell him I haven’t decided yet and hang up.

Day 2: Another call from Shane, ignore.
Day 3: Two more calls from Shane. “Hey! Good salesperson”, I thought. “Not happening though, buddy. :-)
Day 4: More calls. Ignore.
Day 5: Calls. Ignore.

This continued for the next 60 days! Sometimes it was every day, once in awhile he’d skip a day or two. Almost every call was accompanied by a voicemail: (In your best friendly Irish accent) “Hey Dave! It’s Shane over at New York Sports Club! Just wanted to let you know we have some great deals going on right now. Would love to have you by. 917.515.4396

He’d change it up slightly each time, but this was the gist of our 1-way conversation.

The prospect’s thought process

Here I am, spending my days cold calling gym owners, trying to get them to sign up or even answer my calls. I’m leaving messages like, “Hey, Mike… it’s Dave again. It’s Monday, you said you’d have an answer by last Thursday, so…. call me back! :-(” And I’m dodging this guy, Shane.

I went through the cycle that all my prospects go through.

Step 1: Ignore the salesperson because I haven’t made a decision (or made a decision that he doesn’t want to hear). I don’t know what to say to him.
Step 2: Start to feel bad that I’m dodging.
Step 3: Now embarrassed to be dodging, but I definitely can’t tell him no. No way to save face. Hide and pretend this conversation never happened.
Step 4: Get very annoyed at Shane. Turning my guilt for not answering him, into anger directed at Shane. (Which is always easier than blaming myself.)

And for my prospects, it usually ended there.

 ignore calls

Allow your prospects to save face

Shane, however, kept going. He got to the elusive 5th step: the turnaround. 

Step 5: By this point I’ve heard his same voicemail over and over again.  Never mad at me for ditching him, never desperate, never depressed, just happy-go-lucky, Shane! That nice guy who offered me his personal lock when I didn’t have one. The guy who just moved here from some town that I can’t pronounce in Ireland. Smiling… and every single day calling to wish me a  great day.

After 60 days of these calls, I finally said to myself, “damn it, Shane, I respect you!” I marched down to the NYSC on 65 and Columbus, looked Shane in the eye, shook his hand and said, “Sign me up.”


I’ve been a member of NYSC for 8 years now and have probably paid them thousands and thousands of dollars (note: New York City gyms are wayy too expensive).

That’s how this stuff works.

By Shane continuing to call, and delivering a happy-go-lucky message, I felt okay about dropping back in. He and I both knew that he’d been calling me and I’d been ignoring him for 60 days straight. But we were both willing to act like that didn’t happen.

Contrarily, if Shane had been leaving the types of messages I was leaving at the time, “..Mike, you said you would call me back 2 weeks ago, WTF!?” it would have been near impossible for me to respond to Shane. Not only would I have to eventually call him, but I would have had to face and own up to the fact that I was ignoring him. I’d create some excuse, and admit that I was being a bad person. THEN give him my credit card. I’m just not going to do that. I’d sooner never work out again.

I knew from Shane’s approach that he wasn’t going to drill or embarrass me for these actions. He’d just be happy to see me. He let me save face and consequently I was happy to give him my business.


  1. DO NOT STOP FOLLOWING UP. Steli Efti has an incredible post here. Following up is Binary (“I follow up as many times as necessary until I get a response. I don’t care what the response is as long as I get one.”)
  2. When you follow up, be happy!
  3. Let your client save face.
  4. Keep calling.

 here’s millions of posts you can read about how to craft the perfect followup (add value, be funny, short and sweet etc, etc.). But the basic rules above work. And they work well.

It takes 30 seconds, max, to follow up with someone each day. And the happier you are, the happier you sound. That energy transfers!. Make sure it’s real and just do it.

Happy + real + persistence + fun = Sale



KPIs, the 50% rule, and other tips for scaling an early sales team

Yext , a listings management platform is one of the hottest startups in NYC. They’ve raised $115M, are hiring hand over fist and rumored to be headed towards IPO later this year. It wasn’t always rosy for the team. Last month Bryan Rutcofsky, the man who built the original sales team, caught up with us about the early days and how he built the sales machine into what it is today.

How do you set and understand initial sales metrics? What’s realistic?

I’m a firm believer for any sales leader to not ask their employees to do anything they wouldn’t be willing to do themselves.

I did myself and if I knew that I could bring in X amount of sales during Y time, I would set the benchmark at around 80% of where I could be. I can’t expect someone with 6 months of sales experience to always do what I can do.

That said, there’s also going to be people that can come in and do way more than I ever could. I tell my people here’s the model if you can break it and prove out a better process, we’re going to do it that way. I don’t ever stop tracking metrics

Once you understand the sale, how do you scale past one rep and beyond?

We understand this is a product that can be sold, it’s time to grow. Once the the model is set and I knew that I could bring in 3,4,5 businesses / day. We made 2 conscious decisions. 1) we wanted to be inside sellers, contrary to the current thinking of the time: experienced, feet on the street sales people. 2) Bring on green, hungry sellers.

We were very, very strict on our new sales hires. These first 3-4 hires you make, are the people you have to believe your going to build your organization around. If you don’t fully believe the people that you just brought into your company can be the leaders of the sales team as you move forward. You hired the wrong people.

You want someone that’s willing to commit fully to a sales role knowing there’s opportunity to grow and grow the way you want to.

The 50% Rule

Don’t hire too quickly . I’m a firm believer in the 50% rule. I will never hire a sales class that is larger than 50% of my sales floor. If I have 10 sellers on my floor. I will never hire more than 5 people. That speaks to the culture. I worked very hard at curating my team, that buy into my vision and my community. When you bring in a class that is larger than the existing base that can infect the culture that you’ve already worked so hard to build.

You need the existing base to sort of overpower whatever feedback and thought process these new people may have. You need to sort of infuse them with what you want them to know, how you want them to act, the ways you want them to respond… And that can affect they way you want them to respond.

Often founders just want to jump in and just hire 20, 30, 40 people and get rocking and rolling because, “look, it’s working, it’s selling great!, the product’s there!”. You need to beware that it can be very dangerous. It can actually destroy the sales environment and the sales culture that you’ve worked so hard to create (the reason why it works), and can in fact take things in the opposite direction.

What do you look for in a sales hire:

Two things:

1. Confidence. I want someone that can sit down and be confident. I don’t expect anyone to “sell me the pen” if they’ve never sold anything before (although yes, we ask the question just to see what they’ll do). But I’m just looking for their confidence level, how they portray themselves… One of the first things I’ll ask is, “okay, I see your resume here, tell me about yourself” and if it’s 5 seconds long, I don’t want to hire them. I want someone who’s going to be able to engage me. There’s a big difference between cocky and confident. I want confidence

2. Drive. Especially if I’m hiring fresh out of college, someone who worked during school is great. Whether to pay their way or just for pocket change so not just living on mommy and daddy’s dime, knowing the value of “working for their supper”. Someone who played sports sets you up nicely for sales. When you play sports you have to be comfortable with failure because you can’t win all the time. That’s what sales is. Someone who knows what it’s like to be on the field and lose, wake up the next day and go to back to practice so you can be better the next time. That’s what sales is.

So that’s what I look for in an on-site interview. If you can engage me and you have the confidence I might be willing to give you a shot.


See the entire conversation with Bryan below. And come join our next event, May 6th at Foursquare HQ where our guest speaker will be Milind Mehere, co-founder of Yodle.




To Script or Not to Script? (Adam Liebman – Head of Sales, SinglePlatform)

A group I help out with, Startup Sales NYC, recently held a fireside chat with Sam Jacobs of Axial and Adam Liebman, former EVP of Sales at SinglePlatform. A particular topic came up that I’ve wrestled over in the past, and I think Adam finally won me over with his argument here. Should your sales team stick to a script?

I’ve had sales teams where I’ve given a strict script to follow, others where I’ve given talking points and let reps form their own scripts, and I’ve had the in-between; a suggested script to use then, once comfortable, let them go down their own path. Til now, I’ve been undecided on the best approach.

I generally believe that I do a good job hiring. So, I’ve told myself: “If I’m hiring smart, creative people, it makes sense to allow them to ‘call audibles at the line’ and use the path that they think is going to make them most successful. It’s my job then, to help coach each individual to their greatest potential.”

Adam argues a verbatim script is the way to go, especially with a group of raw sellers. And in the end, I think he’s right.

Maybe we can look to professional sports for inspiration here. I’m a big Pittsburgh Steelers fan. The Steelers have certainly had some amazing talent over the years. But one thing’s for sure, all of the players fit the Steelers’ system. They buy into the playbook, into the hard-nosed mentality and the “no one is bigger than the team” attitude. And if they don’t, those players are out pretty quickly.

The Steelers cut the 2009 SuperBowl MVP in 2010 after he did not fit into their bigger picture. You see this often with some of the better coached NFL teams today; I think of the Bill Belichick’s Patriots, Chip Kelley’s Eagles etc.

You, the Head of Sales, need to provide the best direction for your team. Have a system that everyone can buy into and rally around. Your best path is to assemble the best players to fit that system. I’ve seen my teams have 100 different variations of a pitch and each rep looking over their shoulder changing what their doing in favor of their neighbor’s style. And yes, it’s a problem.

Sure, everyone is their own flower. But when it comes down to it, sales is a team sport. Marching together in the same system is the sign of a great company; a great team.

Here’s Adam words:




We [management] are the sales experts. We know what to say, how to say it, when etc. The hardest part of making the sale is not figuring out the big value propositions. I can probably get 3 people in the room, have them look at your product, ask them to come up with 3 bullet points for why that product is great, and they’re probably for the most part going to come up with the same thing. That’s easy.

Yet, that’s what you see a lot of managers teach new sales hires. “Okay cool! We all understand why Single Platform is great! Now, go write your script. Write how you would explain it to someone,”

That part, that’s the actual hard part of sales. How do I figure out, out of the 100,000’s of word possibilities in the english language, and the infinite possibilities of which you can organize what you’re going to say and when you’re going to say it. That’s hard. That’s why they pay us (the managers) the big bucks.

You, the manager, should be the one that’s able to create that best path.

“How do I figure out, out of the hundreds of thousands of word possibilities in the English language, and the infinite possibilities of which you can organize what you’re going to say and when you’re going to say it. That’s hard.


Think about this:

You’re going through a volcano with lava (scary). Someone knows the safe path to get through. You don’t want to get burned. You don’t want those stones to get you to safety to be really far apart. You want them to be as close together as possible.

You, as the VP of Sales, know that safe path. You know where to step. You’re going to be the best at doing that. The closer you can put those stones together, the easier it’s going to be for your team to follow you. If it’s far apart and you’re just giving broad strokes “Talk about how we’re inexpensive. Then talk about how we help our customers…” That’s silly. If you actually talk about how we can help our customers in a verbatim way. Actually write it out. That’s a process that people can follow, right behind you.

Use your leadership to guide through the safe stones

Use your leadership to guide through the safe stones

Optimize for the group

Now the pushback I get on this is: we’ll there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Each prospect requires it’s own unique touch and I (the sales person) am smart enough to know when to use one pitch vs. another, depending on the client. The problem is, it’s really hard to figure out the best approach + combination for every possible situation. That’s incredibly difficult! It’s your job, it’s why you’re the leader,  to figure out the best all around approach and have everyone “skin the cat” the same way.

That makes it easier to coach, to motivate, and ultimately it’s actually the best most effective way. If someone feels they have a better way, but can’t execute on your, the team’s, playbook that everyone else is having success with, that probably means they’re not the right fit for your team. Sure they might be great but you’re going to be a lot stronger if everyone agrees with whatever sort of mandate or script or process that you’ve laid out.

That’s what we did at Single Platform and it allowed us to grow really quickly, get a ton of referrals, keep attrition low and have an unbelievable culture.


For more with Sam & Adam find the full video here. Also be sure to follow @SamfJacobs + @AdamLiebman for more terrific commentary.



[Video] Startup Sales: SMB Sales Playbook w/ Adam Liebman + Sam Jacobs

“Startup Sales: The SMB Playbook” brought to you by Axial and Bowery Capital.  Featuring an in-depth interview and podcast with Adam Liebman, former EVP of Sales for Single Platform and Sam Jacobs, SVP of Sales & Business Development at Axial.

In this event, we’ll cover:

  • Building and scaling a sales force from the ground up

  • Developing a revenue machine focused on the SMB market

  • Who to hire, how to screen for the right candidate, and how to evaluate performance

  • Setting expectations, metrics, and incentives

  • Building a killer culture that empowers and inspires you rteam

  • Creating a professional development path to elevate and reward to performers

  • Motivating teams to drive healthy business growth

  • Common pitfalls and hurdles to avoid

  • Optimal ratios and territory design for SDRs and Account Executives

This event is designed for sales and marketing professionals, executives at fast growth companies, sales managers and coaches, and anyone interested in building high growth scalable SaaS platforms.





Meet Adam Liebman

Adam Liebman was a Founding Executive at SinglePlatform, a venture-backed local business startup acquired by Constant Contact in June 2012.  As EVP of Sales, Liebman was responsible for building the sales organization to more than 100 team members during his four year tenure.  Prior to SinglePlatform, Liebman was the Director of Sales Development at Yext.  An active angel investor and advisor to emerging startups, Liebman was previously named one of Business Insider’s 25 and Under: 20 Hot Young Stars in New York Tech.

We are proud to partner with Bowery Capital, the leading early stage investor in B2B SaaS platforms in New York City to bring you this exceptional event.

About Startup Sales

Startup Sales is a networking group of sales executives, sales leaders, and passionate devotees of the sales religion organized and curated by David Greenberger and Eric Friedman (Foursquare) and Sam Jacobs (Axial). We feature regular panel discussions, Q&A sessions, and podcasts focused on scaling sales efforts for hyper-growth companies and building predictable revenue machines that drive massive enterprise value.

About Bowery Capital

Bowery Capital is a seed stage venture capital fund focused on investments in the business software space. The firm focuses exclusively on supporting startups that disrupt and upgrade legacy marketing and IT products and services across all organizations. As more and more internet natives drive purchasing decisions, Bowery Capital believes that roughly $357B will change hands over the next 10 years as old products are replaced with new. The firm believes that the key ingredients to early success are MRR and ARR growth, and as such provide various sales tools that portfolio companies can leverage to develop a strong early customer base. This combination of a focused thesis and value-added support are the cornerstones of Bowery Capital’s investment approach.

About Axial

Axial is a SaaS-based technology platform focused on helping global entrepreneurs and CEOs connect with the resources and capital they need to fuel their growth. We are one of the fastest growing technology companies in New York and are actively looking to hire top-notch and talented sales professionals.

Sam Jacobs is the SVP of Sales & Business Development  and has built and run the Axial Sales and Member Development organization for the past 4 years, after spending 8 years at Gerson Lehrman Group building, running, and motivating increasingly larger teams of sales and client development professionals.

Q&A with – 3 Burning Questions

I was recently asked to do a Q&A with the fantastic team at You can find the full post on their blog. I thought I’d share a few of the questions here.

What’s the best sales advice you’ve ever received?

People reflect what you project.

If you’re not confident in your product, they’re going to question it. If you’re not confident in yourself, they don’t trust you. If you ask boring questions, guess what? You’ll get boring answers.

Likewise, if you’re engaging, fun, and assertive, they’ll feel that way about you and your product. As a salesperson, like a guy on the dance floor, it’s your job to lead and set the tone. Too crazy and they can’t keep up; too slow and they’re bored; too self-conscious and they’re feeling awkward.

Drive the relationship where you want to go and you’re going to enjoy what you’re doing. When you’re confident and having fun, the rest comes easy.


What big mistake do you commonly see in sales?

I see failing to be one’s self, so sorely missing from the people trying to sell to me. Typically, a person goes into sales because they are fun, engaging and like talking to other people. Social butterflies. Suddenly, as soon as they get on a sales call, they become a professional robot feeling the need to spit back all kinds of buzz words – everything is an “optimization” or a “efficient costs savings”. No one talks that way!

The most important thing to remember: the person across the table is at a job too. They likely don’t want to hear about your product’s “cost saving optimization” monologue any more than you want to say it. Make it easy and fun for your buyer. Be a person, be relatable, tell a story that the gal on the the other side can identify with and understand, and they might even enjoy the sales process. You might too! If they’re enjoying their time with you it’s a lot easier to make a decision to want to work with you moving forward.


What is the most important question you can ask on a discovery call?

“What do you want to get out of this relationship?”

Understanding what “success” is for your client is the most important way to start your relationship. It tells you how to approach the entire process. My job, as a salesperson, is to make my client happy. How can I do that if I don’t know what drives their happiness? If you don’t ask, you’re guessing.

Are they a CMO/co-founder that cares solely about driving bottom line, or do they care more about brand recognition right now? Are they a mid-level marketing director that just doesn’t want to lose their job, or are they a ladder-climbing star that wants to take risks, find the next “big thing” and blow their boss away?” Each scenario requires a different touch.

For the ‘bottom-line founder’, I know I need to get down to business. Someone more brand-driven will require a more exploratory and creative conversation. For the person that just wants to keep his job, it’s important to convey that this is a safe, no-brainer choice that lots of their competitors are already successful with. The old ‘nobody get’s fired for choosing IBM’ logic.

Understanding what the client actually wants allows you to ‘begin with the end in mind’ and drive towards both of your goals.

Far too often I see conversations go way too far, sometimes even after the buying process, before realizing that buyer and seller intentions were not on the same page. It always ends in a lot of bad feelings and frustration from all parties. Best to avoid that from step one.


For more, feel free to check out the entire interview at as well as lots of other great content like: 8 Ways to Lower Your Email Bounce Rate, Q&A with John Egan, Growth Engineer at Pinterest, 11 Lead Generation Tactics You’re Likely Ignoring and more.



How to Build a Killer SMB Sales Team

We recently hosted another Building the Sales Machine event here at Foursquare HQ and this time the guest speaker was the man who taught me everything I know, Bryan Rutcofsky of Yext. Bryan has built an amazing SMB sales playbook that many of the top companies in the space are using today. Think of him as the father of Triangle Offense.

We discussed a lot of great topics over the course of an hour or so, everything from validating the sales model, to establishing KPI’s and comp plans, to learning how to get the most out of your team.

The full video can be found here:


We’ll also be speaking about individual topics discussed here over the course of the next few weeks to further explore each subject. Hopefully it’s helpful for you all!

Big thanks as always to Eric Friedman (our on-stage interviewer) and Evan Bartlett, our co-hosts for helping to make the event happen.

Ask for help! 4 rules for getting great advice


Knowing how to ask is so insanely valuable. There’s a whole world of people out there that are absolutely fantastic at what they do and 95% of them are totally willing to help the right people.

The rules of getting help:

1. Ask

99% of the world doesn’t get here. Afraid of rejection, don’t want to look stupid, don’t think of it. There’s all kinds of reasons not to get here. If you need help with something, identify the people that are great at it and ask them for help. Yes, 90% of the people will probably ignore you (nothing lost here) but 10% might actually reply. Think about how powerful that can be.


2. Be specific in your ask

Make it easy for the person you’re asking to actually help you. I get asked for help a fair amount and the majority of the time it’s, “I’m interested in the startup sales space, do you have time for a coffee?” That’s a really hard thing to say yes to. My time is pretty valuable to me, and it’s nowhere near as valuable as many of the people that I reach out to for help. I’ve spent too many hours on “15 min coffees” that become a conversation that could have been gleaned by just reading my linkedin profile.

“I’m starting a sales team and evaluating how to setup early for scale and success, I had some specific questions on choosing the right CRM and key metrics to look at, do you have any advice?”

A question like this is easy to answer, in fact I could reply via email. That’s very easy for me to do, and I typically will. I want to help. If there’s some smart conversation back and forth, it might make sense to go for a drink or coffee and discuss more. 

Then if I’m going to spend my “valuable” time for the meeting. I’ll know (or at least have a better idea) that it will be useful.

Tim Ferris has some great suggestions here on his post 5 Tips For Emailing Busy People


3. Add Value

If you are taking your precious time to help me out with something I need. I’m always trying to figure out how I can return the favor. Generally, I’m seeking help from someone “above” me on the ladder, so it’s hard to figure out how to do this. I’m asking a successful sales leader for advice, how can I possibly add value to him? Well… sometimes it’s my network, I can introduce him to someone that could be a valuable junior hire. Sometimes I’ve come across a sales tool that he might not know about. Maybe I have a lead on tickets to the sold out game this week. Maybe we were chatting about how much he loves BBQ and I know of a great restaurant that just opened up downtown. I don’t know.

The best “thank you” emails I get end with something like, “I thought you mind find X helpful based on our conversation. Thanks again and please let me know how I can return the favor.”


4. Follow-up!

The most important tip I’ve picked up in the last 5 years: Follow up with the person that’s helped you. Let them know how your advice went and how you’re progressing!

This week one of my sales reps asked for help from our CRO re: the XYZ account. Steven, our CRO, took his time to sit down, talk through the situation and offer his best advice. The sales guy, Josh, was incredibly thankful. He took the advice, applied it, and it worked pretty well. Now, he has a semi result.

Right at this moment marks the most important point in asking for help and building the future relationship. Follow up and tell that person how it, went and thanks again.

If people are taking their time to help you, it means they generally want to help. That also means they’d appreciate knowing how it turned out and how you’re doing. There’s no such thing as a selfless deed, it feels good to help people.

Steven, happened to come up to me, wondering if the advice he gave Josh was helpful.
Dave: “Yeah, it was great thank you so much, Josh didn’t follow-up with you?” Steven: “Nope”.
Dave: “He should have.”
Steven: Yes, he should have.”

What Josh should have written is something along the lines of:

Hey Steven,

Wanted to follow up about the issue you helped me out with regarding XYZ and their agency. In a nutshell, I asked directly for dates and an IO, and she said she would try – I then gave a little of the human element like you suggested, so she understood where I was coming from.
Sure enough, she came back saying she not only pushed and got it approved, but moved up to May and back into Q2. Should be signed soon.
Thanks for the advice, worked out even better than I expected.



Some of my best connections are those that I originally asked for help on one thing or another whom I thought would never respond, and now have I great relationships with. Brian Wong of Kiip recently wrote a great piece about how asking for advice can even be the best way to land funding!

Those that are able to close the loop are appreciated and valued, and receive a lot more help in the future ; )

Like with anything else new, it’s hard to remember to do these things. I try my hardest to put some kind of positive triggers in place to remind myself to follow up, just like I would with any client.


Effective cold emailing strategies

From time to time I get requests for advice from new CEOs or sales leaders starting their sales team. Cold calling is my thing and Local is my game. From my time building sales teams at Yext and later Felix I’ve likely hired/managed 400+ reps, all who made 150+ cold calls per day. So, yeah we’ve tried a lot of things.

I try to keep any help in this arena as tactical as possible to be truly helpful. I thought I’d share one such correspondence below. The CEO of a newly launched disrupter in the telephony space is trying to develop his sales outreach strategy to find great customers.

“My question is, from a lead gen perspective, have you seen emailing info@, or contact@, etc addresses for SMBs working?  It seems quite a few companies have been doing this, and it seems to work because most will ultimately go to a decision maker if the company is <15 people.  Do you have any experience with this?”

I’d agree that often info@ requests will reach a decision maker (DM) at small companies. I also agree that a lot of sales people are trying to reach them through this channel, so it often acts as a catch-all where sales emails can be easily identified and filtered out.

The best sales people are a bit harder to filter by the quick “eye test”. Typically because they’ve done their homework, are relatable, and can be quickly understood.

Getting in front of a DM is half the battle and you’ll do that fairly well by targeting info@-type addresses at small companies. When writing these emails try to think about what the owners want coming through their info@ channels. Usually they’re looking for leads. If that’s the case, think like a lead. Speak the DM’s language.

For example: If writing to a note to a plumber:

Rather than sending:

“Hey this is Dave Greenberger, from PlumbersDirect. I’d love to talk to you about how we can help drive new customers into your business. After being around for 40 years, we at PlumbersDirect specialize in driving the “right” phone calls to you, thanks to a series of technological advancements.

Unlike competitors, we do this through a ____ b_________ and c_______ with great success.

I’d love to talk to you about how we can help. Do you have any time available today??”


Speak their language:


We have a few clients in the area who are looking for a certified plumber they can trust nearby. Do you do any sewer main-line work? If so, are you able to take on any extra work this month?



Once I have the DM on the phone, and know that she’s interested in extra customers, we can discuss how PlumbersDirect can be a regular engine for these type of customers and engage in a conversation about whether it’s a good fit.

Speaking the DM’s language and getting to the point, saves both you AND the prospect a lot of time and energy, and will likely result in much more actionable next steps. Whether that’s a “no, we’re not interested” “or yes we can take on some work, give me a call” it’s all better than a lengthy message that isn’t read.

I hope that makes sense.

Happy to chat more about how this can work for you.



There’s always more than one way to skin a cat. This is surely not THE BEST, nor only way to reach out to SMB’s. But for me, if you’re going to play the email game, thinking about sales in terms of ‘what helps the prospect on the other end of the line’ can drive results.

How do you reach out to your prospects? I’d love to hear your advice.