Customer case study: Foursquare

by Ramin Assemi

customer_case_study_foursquare-min

 

Who’s running Foursquare’s sales operations?

Eric Friedman, Global Senior Director, Sales and Revenue Operations. You can check out his reflections on five years of working at Foursquare, which makes for an insightful read.

David Greenberger, National Director, Sales & Merchant Partnerships at Foursquare. His sales blog is a treasure trove of lessons he learned while being at the forefront of building and scaling a sales operation.

What does Foursquare’s sales team do?

We’re selling Foursquare’s advertising products (Promoted Places, Place Based Ads & Pinpoint Audience Network). Our team is all inside sales, meaning that our reps are working from the sales office and communicating with prospects and customers via email and phone.

Who is Foursquare selling to?

Any business that could benefit from location-based advertising could benefit from Foursquare’s advertising products.

Our customer base comes in all shapes and sizes.

Enterprise

Initially, we had a national sales team, and we were selling to enterprise customers exclusively.

Local SMBs

Then, we expanded by also offering advertising products to local small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs)—merchants with 1 to 50 physical locations. Typical businesses in this category were unique mom-and-pop restaurants, bars and retail stores.

Mid-market

Then, we expanded by offering advertising products to mid-market companies (merchants with 50 to 5,000 physical locations). Examples of businesses in this category are merchants such as Applebee’s, Finish Line, Louis Vuitton, etc.

International expansion

Next came international expansion by introducing advertising products to Europe and Latin America.

This surely was an interesting move—most companies start with smaller local businesses and then move upstream. The Foursquare sales team went the opposite way: from national to local to mid-market to international.

What other sales tools have you tried in the past?

We had been using Salesforce, and we meticulously evaluated pretty much every other sales CRM on the market. Salesforce worked well for our enterprise sales division but was too cumbersome out of the box once we started selling to SMBs, mid-market and international customers.

Why did you initially try out Close.io?

When we built our sales organization at Foursquare, we initially were selling to enterprises. Very large deals. We were managing our enterprise pipeline with Salesforce.

As soon as we started selling to local SMBs, that CRM simply wasn’t an option anymore.

Selling to SMBs is a different animal

It was no longer feasible to use the same methodologies and tools we used to sell to large enterprises to sell to SMBs. There are some fundamental differences between selling to SMBs and selling to enterprises:

  • Sales cycles are a lot shorter—you close or lose a deal within one phone call rather than in a complex sales cycle that takes months,
  • You are selling directly to the business owner—who is the single decision maker—rather than selling to multiple stakeholders.

We needed to find a sales tool that would allow our sales reps to spend a lot more time on the phone talking to prospects and customers.

Trying to customize the old CRM

At first, we decided to use integrations, add-ons and customizations so that we could keep using Salesforce.

We added separate third-party products for account management, power dialing, and rapid fire dialing as well as additional CRM extensions.

The complexity of maintaining this became overwhelming. It just wasn’t working. Rather than making us more productive, it slowed us down. We realized we needed to make a change if we wanted to grow faster.

Was it an easy decision to switch from your previous CRM to Close.io?

No, not at all. There are substantial costs involved when you’ve already got your operation running. What’s more, we couldn’t just switch even if we wanted to. We needed to get the approval from the management team, financial team and the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO).

We had to really sell this hard internally. The CRO now has to keep tabs on two systems and two different pipelines because we’re using Close.io.

The higher-ups didn’t see a need for this, and we had to make a really strong case to push this through. Eric Friedman meticulously evaluated pretty much every CRM system and sales software tool on the market to find the best solution for our needs.

How did you convince management that adapting Close.io was the right move?

It was just like closing a deal. We had to understand what management cared about. In our case, it was about time, quality and cost.

We made a compelling case that demonstrated how switching to Close.io would enable us to achieve objectives faster with more accurate data, better deal quality and even lower costs.

We made it easy for the management team to compare and contrast both systems against each other and see which one was better suited to help us move our Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Rather than discussing opinions, we just presented the facts and data. It was a lot of work to put together the data, but we would have never gotten the approval from management if we couldn’t back up our claims with hard, quantifiable facts.

Data points that made a case for Close.io

When we collected the data to support the decision, we had to be precise and to relate the data to the more strategic objectives of management.

Logging a call: 16 clicks in Salesforce, 2 clicks in Close.io

Sales reps going after local SMBs at Foursquare needed to make 100 to 150 dials a day. If you’re dealing with 20, 30 or 100 reps, and each one is making up to 150 calls per day, that’s a lot. You want to reduce busywork as much as you can.

We had Salesforce customized and ramped up. It wasn’t 100% optimized, but it was about 95% of the way there.

The most common scenario when you’re cold-calling is this:

  1. Sales rep dials a number and waits for someone to pick up.
  2. Nobody answers the phone. Sales rep hangs up.
  3. Sales rep logs into the system that nobody answered.

In Salesforce, this would take 16 clicks! So the sales rep would have to go through 16 steps to do this.

Close.io does the same thing with just two mouse clicks. That’s 14 clicks fewer than in Salesforce for this one single task that each sales rep goes through hundreds of times a day.

This is a huge timesaver per individual rep per day, and it saves a lot of money and improves sales productivity when you’re dealing with a more substantial number of reps.

Keep your sales team in peak performance mode

Reducing the number of clicks your sales reps have to do to perform their jobs isn’t just about saving time. It’s also about preserving the energy of your reps and helping them to crush it. It’s an emotional timesaver.

Cold-calling is a pretty hard job. It’s terrible. You get rejected all the time. If there is anything you can do to not feel like you’re in a cubicle doing paperwork, you’d want to implement it. Our salespeople are naturally communicative—they enjoy interacting with others. They don’t like logging things in the system. We want them to focus on their core competency—communicating with people—and reduce as much friction as possible around that so that they can focus on what they’re good at.

Sales team culture

We can’t overemphasize how important it is to keep the energy in the room high. Sales reps should have fun. You can’t let them get bogged down in the day-to-day mindless stuff.

When you’re on the phone, people should feel that you enjoy what you’re doing, and then they’ll want in. If you exude happiness, they’ll want a piece of that.

Fundamentally, there are two things you can do to create and maintain a great culture:

  1. Add things that support the right culture.
  2. Detract things that undermine the right culture.

No salesperson enjoys logging data into a CRM. So that’s one of these things you want to detract. It still needs to be done—you have to be organized, and manage and measure your sales pipeline meticulously. But you shouldn’t burden your sales reps with that task. That’s not their job. Their job is to build, maintain and grow relationships and make deals happen.

More accurate tracking of interactions

With Salesforce, about two-thirds of what we were trying to track didn’t get captured in the CRM. Neither inbound calls nor emails were being tracked. It would be possible to customize their system, add various integrations and install some add-ons, but the amount of time and money it would require to set all that up—and then maintain it—was just too high.

Close.io, on the other hand, tracks all of that right out of the box: outbound, inbound, emails, notes, emails, and automatic logging of all interactions.

How did your reps respond when you switched over to Close.io?

That’s a great question. Whenever you’re changing parts of the process—especially if it’s such a significant part like which sales platform you use—people have to re-learn and change the way they work, and that often creates resistance.

As the leaders of this team, we were aware of that, and we wanted to get their buy-in just as much as we got management’s buy-in. So we’ve been very transparent about the switch, from the moment we started looking into other options.

We value transparency. So it wasn’t a shock to them when we made the move. They were prepared and actually looking forward to it. They understood that this was about providing them with better tools that would allow them to get more done in less time.

Once we started using it, there was no looking back.

So, in summary, switching over to Close.io was very fast and seamless, considering that it’s such a central part of the way things work.

What was involved in switching from Salesforce to Close.io?

We were honestly a bit worried about that even though we enthusiastically looked forward to using Close.io. There’s much that can go wrong and that has to be taken into account when you move your existing pipeline into a completely new system.

Your team was really helpful. Kevin was the guy on the Close.io team who helped with the transition and made sure that everything was mapped correctly. All the notes, tasks, territories—when you’re actually faced with the task of moving it all over to a new system, you realize how much complexity is involved.

The support from your end was great. Whenever we had a question, your team was there and helped us get what we needed as well as suggest the optimal ways of doing things.

Getting the data from Salesforce into Close.io was probably the best experience I ever had when it comes to migrating data from one CRM to another.

We just put everything we wanted into Close.io; every single piece of data we had in Salesforce that we might want to access later on, we just exported it into Close.io. We had done this before with other CRMs, and it was a really bad idea because you end up with this big, chaotic mess that’s just hard to work with. With Close.io, we’ve managed to get all the data we want in there without any of it getting in our way.

Scaling the sales team

We started with a tiny sales team of three local sellers and grew very quickly. Having scaled our sales teams, first for enterprise customers with Salesforce and then for the local SMB customers with Close.io, made it very easy to decide which tool was the right solution for us long-term: it was much easier and faster to scale using Close.io. It’s kind of ironic because in conversations I’ve had with other founders, I’ve often heard: “We want to scale our sales team, so we should use Salesforce.” If they could compare scaling teams with both systems, I’m pretty sure that almost all of them would prefer Close.io for a transactional sale.

Onboarding reps in less time

As we scaled, some of the new sales reps were used to working with other sales platforms. Others worked in B2B sales positions for the first time, and they had never used a CRM before.

For both of these groups, it was very simple and intuitive to start using Close.io. There’s no elaborate training period required to get people up to speed.

They all very quickly had this “yeah, of course, this is how it should work” kind of moment when we showed them how we used Close.io in our sales process. It just makes sense. Experienced reps, who had worked with other sales CRMs before, especially appreciated and saw the value in how elegantly you can manage your pipeline with Close.io.

On average, people get up and running within a week, and they start using advanced power features within the following few weeks.

As a fast-growing sales organization, we value not to have to design and execute an elaborate training program. Many other sales organizations make every new hire go through a week-long CRM training. To us, that’s a sign that there’s something wrong. It shouldn’t be that hard and complicated to use a tool that’s supposed to help you work better.

How much time does it take to onboard an individual sales rep on Close.io?

Whenever I tell this to colleagues, they can’t believe it. We spend less than an hour training our reps how to actually use Close.io. We have some SmartViews preset for each rep to make it easy to get started.

A lot of the training is actually about familiarizing them with our products and our workflows and systems, and not so much specifically about Close.io. Usually, on day four, they’re already making calls with Close.io.

Sales process experimentation and optimization

When you’re developing your sales process, you want to experiment and iterate quickly. You want a tool that is flexible enough to accelerate your learnings.

When I wanted to quickly grow the team, it really hurt my brain the amount of thinking that was required for every change we wanted to make and how it would affect our CRM, and we had to bring in a $200/hour consultant to come in and make those changes. I’m a move quickly guy, I’ve got a lot of ideas. I execute quickly. I have a hard time laying all of that out and seeing what’s going to happen 4 or 5 months down the line. It was really tough for us to figure out "here’s what things are going to be like 2 years down the road" when we were just starting out from ground zero … it’s just not possible, there are so many learnings that are necessary to happen first. — David Greenberger

This is an ongoing process. We’re constantly changing the way we work, iterating and optimizing. By switching gears, moving the big parts and keeping track of how this affects all the metrics, you can so much more than you could by spending all your time on endlessly refining and polishing minor details.

By the time people read this case study, we’ve probably already made changes to our sales model. No other tool we’ve worked with allows for this kind of relentless experimentation.

Tracking and testing

We’re obsessive about tracking, testing and training. We’re doing four trainings a week on average. We review calls, do coachings on live calls or look at results of email experiments.

Every single thing we do is an A/B test.

Being able to easily take all this information, track everything we do and pull out the insights we need without requiring to have a background in data analysis, is very valuable. With Close.io, we can go from a bird’s-eye view to drilling down into any particular aspect we want, or we can start with one isolated small thing we do and zoom out to see how it affects the bigger picture.

What were some of the problems you encountered with Close.io?

We started using Close.io almost two years ago, and at that time, it wasn’t the same product it is now. There were a lot of features your software just lacked at that time.

Getting to know Close.io’s API

One thing we really needed was a scoreboard that would make it easy to quantify how our sales reps were doing, both collectively and individually.

Most CRM systems already have ready-made scoreboards, so it’s very easy to get started.

Close.io didn’t, and we had to build our own custom scoreboard. This took some time because we don’t have an admin dedicated to things like these—there’s no full-time staff member for these kinds of technical implementations.

But it turned out to actually be a blessing in disguise because those ready-made scoreboards are always a one-size-fits-all design. They just can’t be a perfect match for everyone even with some level of customization. So you end up having to make your workflow fit your scoreboard to some extend instead of how it should be: the other way around.

Close.io’s API is just well-built, so you have a solid foundation to create a scoreboard on top of it. Once you get to know it, you can see that it’s a highly extensible system that can be expanded to fit your needs without being bogged down by the possibilities like other CRMs would be.

With Close.io’s API endpoints, we could literally build the perfect scoreboard for our own needs, and the support we got from your engineering team was very helpful.

Listening to feature requests

When we first started using Close.io, it lacked a lot of features you now have. And we submitted a lot of feature requests. Your team would always respond: “It’s on the roadmap, probably x months down the line.” Or sometimes they’d say: “This isn’t on the roadmap yet. Can you tell us more about how you’d use it?”

There was one instance that was really critical to us: we needed HTML email. You didn’t support that at the time yet, and I was getting frustrated that you didn’t just implement this because it seemed like an easy thing to do.

One day, I found an email in my inbox announcing that I would now be able to send out HTML email, and I’ve been very impressed with the way it works. I can tell that you really listened to our requests and took time to understand our needs. But you didn’t just go out and blindly build what we requested; instead, you created solutions based on our requests that made the overall product more valuable to everyone and, in many cases, enabled us to do things we didn’t even think about in the first place.

Using Close.io for account management

We don’t just use your sales CRM to do outbound and inbound sales; we also use it for account management. Maintenance of our accounts is a huge part of our work, and we’re managing it all with Close.io.

Account management is at the core of our sales process. We’re not selling software subscriptions or one-time deals. We’re selling advertising. Our sales reps have to sell to our existing customers every single day. We need to keep our current clients updated, keep our relationships with them moving forward and find ways to contribute more value.

Our customers pay us for performance. That sale happens every day, every week, every month.

The extensibility of the API to connect Close.io with our other Business Intelligence (BI) tools is incredibly valuable to us. Our sales operation isn’t taking place on an island—we can’t just do our own thing. Everything we do needs to be mapped back to the revenue, the costs and the operations of the rest of our enterprise.

A lot of sales organizations aren’t good at it. In sales culture, it’s common to think: “Sell first, count the money later.”

But at some point, the counting money part becomes incredibly important, especially as you grow, and it’s crucial that you get accurate insights. The ability to do this with Close.io speaks strongly to the finance and accounting teams’ needs.

What was your experience when it came to dealing with our support?

It’s been really tremendous to experience the customer support from your side. We jump into live chat way more often than we probably should and ask a lot of questions, and you give us real answers rather than boilerplate responses. I’m not sure you’ll be able to scale this quality of support. I know you’re growing fast, but I’m sure glad to be on the receiving end of it.

Anything else you would like to share?

One thing: we’ve taken you up on your offer of a startup sales office hour and have benefited a lot from the advice you shared there as well as the sales tips you share on your blog. We regularly encounter situations when speaking with prospects and customers where a sales tactic you shared helps us move the conversation forward in the right way.

Another thing is we visited another customer of yours and saw how they were using Close.io. And it was completely different from how we use your software—a very different workflow and setup. Yet, it seemed to be ideal for the way they worked, and that was another of those moments when I realized how flexible Close.io can really be.

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