First, if I understand him right, Stewart Butterfield is (intentionally) being slightly narrow / simplistic here in his definition of “salespeople” … i think it’s literally accurate but he doesn’t mean there isn’t a team of inside folks working with prospects and closing deals.
I understand he means no outbound sales (no one reaching out to prospects), and no field sales (calling into big, named accounts), which I don’t think Slack has any of at the moment.
Nor does it need to. It’s a 100% in-bound plus land-and-expand model. And a beautiful one.
But this doesn’t mean not having a small army of folks that answer the phone to close deals. There is obviously a team answering these ‘Contact us’ clicks:
For now, Slack has, apparently, been able to build into six and seven figure deals semi-organically in a land-and-semi-automatical
If you can grow that way forever, “all” the sales team needs to do is land the initial deal, which may not require a huge amount of traditional sales. Then the customer success and happiness team can help support growth.
Given Slack’s jaw dropping growth, it is clearly working.
Having said all that … I don’t think Stewart has said never, ever. Atlassian has no traditional sales force in-house … but it has a large in-house force that talks to customers, AND it has a large essentially out-sourced sales team through its channel partners. These channel partners are all on commission …
If Slack wants to maintain stay in its current segments I suspect this will continue to work for a very long time.
If Slack wants to go more enterprise, and get true CIO-level buy-in and adoption … it will ultimately need to add a traditional sales force, on commission, at least for its Large Accounts.
There’s no other way to close these deals.
My experience tells me they probably can get to $300m+ in ARR, maybe more, without really changing anything. Pure momentum says that. The law of Hunting Large Deals though suggests $1b+ in ARR will require an enterprise sales team, at least to continue to grow the six and seven figure+ deals sold to IT, not directly to departments and end-users.
A little ways back, but Stewart and David Sacks (Yammer) comparing-and-contrasting their approaches to sales at SaaStr Annual here: