Ep. 280: How do you manage a sales team when you’re at a company with both Free and Freemium Sales-Driven Segments? What about SMB vs. Enterprise Sales? SaaStr CEO Jason Lemkin sits down with Mixmax’s Head of Revenue Don Erwin to discuss it all.

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Ep. 281: Rene Yang Stewart, Co-Head and Principal, Vista Equity Partners, and Monica Enand, Founder and CEO, Zapproved discuss growing a company from product market fit to scale. Vista Equity Partners invested in Zapproved in 2017. Hear perspectives from both the investor and founder on growth to scale.

This episode is sponsored by Owl Labs.


SaaStr’s Founder’s Favorites Series features one of SaaStr Annual’s best of the best sessions that you might have missed.

This podcast is an excerpt from Rene and Monica’s session at SaaStr Annual 2019.


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Jason Lemkin
Don Erwin
Rene Yang Stewart
Monica Enand

Curious for more? After the jump we share a bit of a deep dive on Jason’s interview with Don Erwin

“If you remember my first month here at Mixmax, in fact, my second day on the job, was our first board meeting. For me at least it was. I was dead certain that we were ripe for enterprise and I initially built out a sales plan to go upmarket and to go upmarket fast. Then I picked up the phone and started having conversations with our customers. ‘Tell me why you bought our product?’ Some small companies, some mid-size companies, and some of our largest customers.” said MixMax Head of Revenue Don Erwin. “What I learned there was that we actually needed to slow it down and build more of a longer-term strategy for the enterprise. Not to say that we don’t sell enterprise companies today, because we do, but we’re more nuanced.”

After jumping on the phone with customers, he realized that perhaps flipping a switch so suddenly to go enterprise was a large pivot for a company that had spent its first five years building the individual and very small companies in a self-serve type of model.

Erwin marks the start of his career now by his time at Oracle. From there he was an early employee at LinkedIn and held various leadership positions in sales at HackerRank, SmartRecruiters, and Automile.

What does a company with a hybrid of free and freemium sales look like?

A mix of free and freemium sales can be exciting because the sales team doesn’t have to carry the whole load itself. With Mixmax for example, the self-service parts contribute a chunk to revenue every year. ”

“But at the same time, there’s conflict, because what do you care about? Sales, right? I mean you’re a team player, you care about the company, but your job is to increase sales, right? (Which is only part of the revenue at Mixmax.) So how do you deal with this kind of conflict? And how do you fight for help when you have a business that’s part sales driven, but part self-service driven?” said SaaStr CEO Jason Lemkin.

Erwin says the key is identifying the ICP, the Ideal Customer Profile. By relying on data, he was able to look at the five years worth of self-service customers that used credit cards to purchase the product. In this case, these customers were crucial in defining this persona.

So, what’s next?

Taking this persona and applying it to the company’s 10,000 paying customers today, however, was the next challenge.

“The second for me was building an inbound and outbound sales strategy that goes after these customers. So one of the things that I did first was we built out an ABM business sales strategy here at Mixmax. So it’s proactively going after those. Once we identified who our ideal customer profile was, it was then proactively going after these guys with both an inbound marketing and heavy outbound strategy that started to drive interest with these ideal customers.” said Erwin “They may not have actually heard of Mixmax just yet, to start finally paying a little bit of attention to us and responding back to our inbound and outbound messaging to have conversations with us, and that built a team from there.”

Erwin notes that when he first joined the company, its entire customer base was self-serve. Of the thousands of customers, he walked into, only a handful was buying multiple seats. Most purchasers were buying single seats or a small handful. He honed in on the areas where two or three individuals at the same domain were purchasing and reached out to those individuals directly.

The takeaway

The heart of Erwin’s sales strategy is putting people first, making the calls directly and reaching people to truly hear their feedback and thoughts.

“I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face, people buy from people they like, people buy from people they trust. You cannot in any way, shape, or form, there is no technology on the planet that you can send an email or a text or a smoke signal or a carrier pigeon that can convey over that genuine human interaction that you have with somebody that you truly care about their business. I have a product that can help solve your challenges. Look, if I can’t solve your challenges, I’m going to tell you that I can’t, and I’m going to wish you the best of luck and shake hands and we’ll part as friends. You build trust and credibility that way. You cannot do that statically through any software tool or anything else. You have to either meet them face to face or you have to talk to somebody over the phone. You have to talk to a human being live.” 

Want more? Hear the full interview below:



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