We went from $1mn to $100 mn in 5 years, here’s how we’re scaling sales and marketing for hypergrowth

There is nothing more challenging and exciting than driving growth at a unicorn that’s already blitz-scaling towards epic growth milestones. We went from $1 million to $100 million in annual recurring revenue in just about five years. We also grew from being a single product company to about a dozen products, expanded our presence to multiple markets, and have grown from a six-member team to a 2500-member strong company.

The opportunity now, to create a billion dollar revenue company on the back of a world-class product, marketing, and sales engine is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that few companies and leaders survive to witness. At Freshworks, we can see this magic already beginning to happen, and that’s what makes this journey super exciting for us. 

All this means shooting for larger deals and at the same time growing our existing customer base. Imagine something like a plane with two engines– both mission critical– firing at the same time. We’re growing from being a startup making tools for young companies like ourselves to being a mid-sized organization that appeals to larger companies as well, and that’s forcing us to reimagine our marketing and sales strategy.

In 2010, we were focused on building products for small and medium businesses and selling to them. Over time we started gaining popularity among larger companies as well, thanks to how powerful yet simple our solutions were. 

Our products, built by some of the best designers, engineers, and product managers, have become more capable, allowing us to attract companies that require sophisticated solutions. This meant going deeper into areas such as customer support, ITSM, sales, marketing automation, and employee engagement with our products. And instead of treating them as separate silos, we are also able to tie everything together by giving our customers a unified view of their customers, thanks to the versatile technology backbone that we have built. 

In turn, this means not only selling to customers who come to us by searching on the internet or discover us through word of mouth, but also talking about our larger vision of bringing marketing, sales, support and various functions to help our customers get more customers for life. To that end, our sales and marketing teams are also changing. In this post, I want to share some of the things we’ve learned.

Understanding  buyer complexity and the buying process

In the SMB world, where the organization probably has fewer than 100 employees, the person looking for a SaaS product, and the one deciding which tool to buy, could well be the same. 

As companies grow, though, the decision-making process becomes fragmented. The task of researching about different products may rest with one, the decision to pick the winner with another, and the budget to carry this out might well be in the hands of a third. In some cases, there could also be invisible influencers in the buying process who have a significant say on selecting the vendor. 

Selling to mid-market or enterprise companies needs a comprehensive cross-channel marketing strategy that involves understanding buyer personas and the buying process more deeply. These prospects or customers demand high-touch engagement, and need to be nurtured through the decision making process by clearly articulating your product value and differentiation, along with credible proof points. It also becomes critical to build a strong and authentic relationships with different influencers in the buyer universe– both online and offline. 

At Freshworks, we began this transition by first articulating our larger vision of helping businesses win customers for life, and how our unique philosophy of Indian democratic design helps us build software that is simple, scalable, affordable, and epitomizes true craftsmanship, all while allowing companies to be self-reliant. 

We trained our sales teams to move from selling individual products to selling solutions that help businesses deliver great customer engagement. We beefed up our outreach and engagement efforts through a combination of digital, account-based and field marketing efforts to give potential buyers a rich experience and access to information that helps them make a well informed choice.

Rearchitecting marketing infrastructure 

We significantly rebuilt our marketing technology stack to enable better planning, execution and data driven decision making. This involved building pipes between our existing marketing tools and using new platforms such as a data quality platform and a marketing resource management (MRM) platform. These tools help orchestrate a cohesive marketing approach across geographies and customer segments. We also invested in building our own marketing intelligence cloud that integrates all buyer and customer signals to make sure we don’t lose the personal touch even as we scale. 

Tools are great, but people make it work

Beefing up marketing technology is great, but what about people? Growing our mid-market and enterprise business also meant building new teams across our sales and marketing engine. Over the past one year, we have set up many new teams as well as grown existing teams to strengthen our go-to-market effort. We nearly doubled the size of our Business Development Representative (BDR) team. It helps us prospect and generate high quality leads at scale. We set up a new “Customer Marketing” team that is sharply focused on working with customers once they have signed up for our solutions. That means looking at things like upselling, cross selling, managing churn and also advocacy. We also set up a central “Segment Marketing” function that’s focussed on delivering consistent messaging for our buyers, enabling sales teams with content relevant to their vertical, and conceptualising clutter-breaking campaigns for demand generation. We hired several leaders and domain experts across different marketing functions to help our teams become enterprise-ready. Needless to say, we’ve grown our sales and pre-sales engines over the past year to support the hyper-growth fuelled by latent demand for better solutions like ours. 

Strengthening the outbound sales engine

As companies transition from selling to SMBs to targeting mid market and enterprise companies, the sales motion typically moves from inbound to outbound. While most small and medium buyers can be attracted using inbound marketing techniques such as digital and content marketing, mid-market and enterprise customers need outbound sales. 

As you will recognize, the skills and approach needed to convert an inbound vs an outbound prospect is very different. Perhaps the biggest difference is the level of interest that the prospect has in your product. Most outbound sales conversations involve developing  a strong hunting strategy, having a detailed discussion with the customer to understand their pain points, creating a compelling need for your product, and convincing prospects of the superior capabilities that our product offers as compared to competition. 

In the case of an inbound lead, these conversations are often easier as the prospect has already been made aware of your company or product through some marketing activity, and hence is often a “warm” prospect. 

The journey ahead

Aside from these broad pointers, there’s no well defined playbook as such for businesses that are beginning to target mid-sized businesses in addition to SMBs. Startups have to customize their strategies based on the sector they are in, their unique capabilities, the kind of customers they’re targeting. The strategy will also depend heavily on the markets they’re going after since every country has different regulations, languages, and cultural practices, and the industry in the countries could be at different stages of evolution. All these aspects have to be factored into the strategy since they define the buying  behaviour.