Building and Scaling Sales Teams in Early Stage Businesses
In episode 72 of Pit Stops to Podium, we sit down with Kyle Vamvouris, CEO at Vouris, a company that helps early-stage startups and large enterprises grow their revenue using a data-driven approach. Kyle is a sales expert and best-selling author with extensive experience working with over 45 B2B software and service companies. We'll discuss building and scaling sales teams in early-stage businesses, data-driven sales leadership, building effective sales teams, and common growth pitfalls to avoid.
As the author of best-selling books "Cold to Committed" and "The Sales Development Framework," Kyle Vamvouris will share expert insights on developing effective sales processes that drive results. Don't miss this opportunity to learn from one of the industry's top sales experts and authors.
If you’re ready to learn from one of the best, then buckle up and hold on!
Using Data for First Hires in Early Stage Businesses
You need to look at the activities of your reps and use the effectiveness of those activities to shape your sales process. Quality of activity is important, so you need to measure everything. A good starting recommendation is tracking how many calls reps are making, how many emails they're sending, and how many LinkedIn messages. You should start with one channel first, and then add the others in gradually.
Then you need to look at engagements (phone connects, email replies) so that you can understand what percentage of your activities lead to some sort of interaction with a prospect. From engagements, you then move to how many appointments get booked. Once you get some numbers coming in, you can see where leakage may be occurring.
"The greatest predictor of future pipeline is today's activities"
Tools to Track Activity and Email
A good recommendation is to have reps manually input their numbers in spreadsheet at the end of every day. Although all of these metrics are available in the CRM and dashboard, typing in the numbers forces reps to be more conscious of the numbers. This helps to create clarity for the reps on what they're being measured against.
Human-Centric Considerations for Building a Successful Team
At the early stage, look for account executives that have experience selling a similar product or into a similar market. Intangibles (e.g. coachability) are important, but past experience should be heavily weighted because it leads to much faster ramp times.
"You want to look for people who have a history of success"
Connect with Kyle
Brendan: Welcome to Pit Stops to Podium the RevPartners podcast where we talk to execs who have competed and won in taking companies from high growth to high scale my name is Brendan Tolleson and I serve as the co-founder and CEO of RevPartners and I'm delighted to have with me today Kyle Vamvouris for this episode of Pit Stops to Podium. Welcome Kyle.
Kyle: Thanks for having me this is gonna be fun
Brendan: This will be fun and I always uh you know enjoy talking to people that have served as operators and also as authors uh and so those that may not know Kyle is a best-selling author has written two books but Kyle this would be a great opportunity for our audience to know a little bit about who Vouris is uh and we can get a little bit of perspective on your origin story of starting the firm.
Kyle: Totally so uh we we are a B2B education and coaching consulting company and we work with typically uh startup companies, technology companies and we help them build a repeatable sales process so sometimes our clients come to us because they have a sales team that isn't performing where they needed to perform and we're there to kind of help turn things around other times they're building a team for the first time and I would say probably about half of our clients I would categorize as early stage so we have a lot of experience working with organizations probably an under or at around but usually under a million in ARR.
Brendan: That's great and so what um what gave you the ability to serve that audience so what's your background getting into that space?
Kyle: Yeah so I ran the inside sales team I was writing the inside sales team at a global supply chain software company before that I ran the SDR team at a financial tech company based out of San Francisco those were two very different sizes of organizations and they had very different targets so one of them was more high-end Enterprise seven-figure contracts a much larger organization the other one was a small scrappy startup that sold into the SMB so having you know a handful of experiences around those types of selling motions I started getting consulting clients on the side that ended up growing I took the business full time in uh July of 2020 and since then we've worked with over 45 different B2B software and service companies specifically around how do you build a repeatable sales process and we have a really strong framework for doing.
Brendan: So that's great and one thing that I mentioned too is that you're an author and man this isn't a fair question saying who's your favorite child but favorite book what's your favorite book you've written so far?
Kyle: Probably my first one Cold to Committed that one um it was a what ended up happening was in 2017 I decided to write the first version of Cold to Committed because there wasn't a lot of resources out there for sdrs to actually learn how to cold call cold email so I wrote the first version of the book uh then and I published it it went really well people seem to really like it and then a few years later I think two to be exact I reread the book and I was like oh we need to update yeah yeah so um I updated the book then and it was actually more of a full rewrite so anyway it's been a big labor of love for me and I started as an SDR so I have a lot of compassion to the for the role I also think sales is one of the greatest careers on the planet so to be able to contribute in some small way to the sales Community is something that's important to me.
Brendan: Well I love that and Kyle we'll get deeper into how you build that where people process at the early stage in just a moment but we do have a tradition here at Pit Stops to Podium and that's to get to know our guests outside work because we are human beings not human doers so um Kyle what are three fun facts that our audience should know about you uh could be passions Hobbies interests I know me author we can give you one right there but what are some other things that our team should know?
Kyle: I'll give you some fun ones um I did stand up comedy for five years so that's a fun fact I dropped out of college that's another fun fact I never never finished. I've been doing comedy uh probably three years at that point and I was like why am I still at this school you know I'm failing everything I don't like it uh so I left I started selling um gym memberships at a local gym and that's eventually how I ended up getting into Tech sales but uh anyway so that's the second one and oh I'm a hardcore Magic the Gathering nerd I love Table Top card games.
Brendan: That's very cool where did you uh did you go to like New York or a big city for the the comedy side?
Kyle: Just San Francisco um maybe for those of you who are uh into comedy uh some clubs have performed I performed at the comedy store in LA that was probably my most famous club that I performed now but I performed at Cobbs in San Francisco Punchline I kind of been all over.
Brendan: So at what point do you say I'm gonna stop or do you still do it?
Kyle: Every once in a while I wish I still did it I I have to be fully dedicated it's it's my passion it's what I love to do the most uh but I have to be fully dedicated in order to to do it but um it was one of these things where I was my career was growing I had been hired as an SDR into it and I was doing well and I was still somewhat doing stand up but it was tough for me to balance the two and I saw very clearly I had two options option one was to keep doing stand up and hope to make it you know in 10 years 15 years the other option was oh and by the way be broke the entire time while doing it the other option was to take all of my energy and put it in my career and focus on kind of advancing through my career increasing my income that's what I had ultimately chose to do um you know I still look back at my time doing stand-up very fondly I've always said I'll do it again one day but um that day hasn't come.
Brendan: Favorite comedian, who is it?
Kyle: Probably Louis CK Bill Burr would be another one um I have a soft spot in my heart for Brian Regan for those of you who uh know some of the older guys he was the first person I saw do stand up on YouTube where I said that's what I want to do you know I think I was in fifth grade so uh anyway those are my top uh couple.
Brendan: That's great I don't know a good transition from comedy to to getting into the sales side but I'm sure that's a good uh training ground for how to deal with things like cold calling and um just with prospects so uh let's get into kind of your your other passion which is the sales side um and so one thing you talked about was building that repeatable process for early stage businesses you alluded to a little bit in the intro but as you think through how to categorize a small business let's talk a little about yes there's a size of Revenue but there's also the team component so what's it look like in that I guess it was a zero to one range from a ARR perspective?
Kyle: Yeah so a couple of things to think about uh one where I usually put a lot of energy this is for the very early stage when the founder is still doing the selling I put a lot of energy around who the first hire should be and there's a lot of um you know a lot of debate around this and I don't think there's a blanket answer here but I can tell you some of the heuristics I use to figure that out so if they um if it's a non-venture-backed uh technology company B2B SaaS company uh even for service companies too but non-venture-backed is is key especially for software uh you have to look and say what do I have the bandwidth to do as a Founder if you have the bandwidth to do sales calls then I would hire somebody to schedule sales calls so that would be an SDR who's responsible for doing cold Outreach to book appointments for you um and that's because you get to take advantage of your close rate being really high and sometimes it's challenging bringing got a an account executive who's usually a lot more paid or paid a lot higher than an SDR um so usually to de-risk it I recommend hiring an SDR if your Venture back to the math totally changes because it just depends on the revenue Target that you told the board you were going to hit and then you work backwards on how many people it'll take to actually hit that Revenue Target um if you don't have time to do sales so let's say you're a bootstrapped Founder you don't have time to do the sales yourself then I would hire somebody to actually do the sales and do their own prospecting so it's just the kind of high level view there based on the situation I make a real recommendation.
Brendan: Yeah that makes sense it informs like where the gaps are to ultimately position yourself for success I mean I do feel like there's an element where a Founder just needs to needs to be in that seat for a period of time to understand what the market is uh saying that a receptivity to your product or service because there's a lot of learning that occurs there and as you know I mean sales at the tip of the spear and so the founder should know it probably better than anybody in terms of why they're building what they're building and what problem they're solving and validating that in the market um so let's talk a little bit about you mentioned kind of that let's say they do hire a sales leader not sorry the characteristics but uh when you talk about repeatable process a lot of that's from a data I would assume data is as a key pillar to that so how do you think through data as it relates to that first kind of hire for early stage business?
Kyle: So what's crazy is if you're an early stage startup company today you have access to the same quality of data that Oracle has been having access to for their entire you know for the past 20 years so this was stuff that large companies was doing before but now smaller companies are totally able to and what it is is you look at the activities of your reps and you use the effectiveness of those activities you start to shape your sales process so what I often say is the greatest predictor of future pipeline is today's activities it's so important and there's you know there's some people who try to move away from activity tracking which I think is I don't think I know it's a huge huge mistake activity is everything now quality of activity is also a big part of the equation so you need to measure everything so what I typically recommend is you start with the activities that are happening I like to track how many calls they're making how many emails they're sending how many LinkedIn messages if that's part of it if you're building your first team I always start with calls so I start with one channel first I add the other channel later I don't like to complicate workflows early on so we start with calls and then maybe even two weeks you know a month at the latest later we'll introduce email and do the same thing with the third Channel if necessary so uh anyway first activities and I track that based on activity type call email whatever it might be the second one are engagements so these are people who answer the phone so phone connects or people who reply to an email or email replies I try to track them separately if you can't bundle them together but you need activities and you need engagements because then you're going to understand what percentage of your your activities actually lead to some interaction with the prospect from there you have engagements then you move to how many appointments get booked so if you had uh let's say you did 5 500 activities you did uh you spoke or got a reply from 550 people and you book 17 appointments now you're starting to understand all right our activity is about 10% of them we're actually engaging with our prospects and then you know a little over three percent are actually resulting in appointments now you can start building a strategy and then you can take that throughout the sales process too so from appointments to deals stage one from deal stage one to deal stage two deal stage two to deal stage three to close won however many deal stages you have and now you can start seeing the percentages between each one of those and that can give you areas to focus in order to unlock potential within your sales process.
Brendan: Yeah I love that I mean one of the things that we talk about from a RevOps perspective is that they're really um three big components that you can use to impact Revenue uh there's volume there's conversion there's time um and a lot of what you're describing is the conversion element so from this gate to this gate was our conversion rate looks like because that will indicate where the the leakage is occurring and then you can understand why um to your point like what's the root cause of this problem or or conversely what's the root cause of us being successful? So for those that may be saying hey that's great but I have no idea how to track activity are there tools that you would recommend from that perspective to make sure that they have a tool set in place?
Kyle: Yeah I mean if you're using HubSpot it's going to track it when you dial through HubSpot um if you are using like apollo.io that's a good sequencing tool almost every tool now will track a call that's being made if not whatever dialer integrates with that tool will but um you shouldn't have that big of a problem tracking activity now what you might have a problem doing is tracking manual emails versus email automation one thing I do for every company we work with and by the way we worked from large companies too we have like 30 reps so they're not all small but I do it with them too so this is across the board is I have the Reps manually input their data at the end of every single day I want them pulling up a spreadsheet and looking at their dashboard and typing in metrics do we have all these metrics in our CRM in our dashboards of course we do but I want the Reps taking ownership of their numbers and there's something weird about at the end of the day you have to type in those numbers it forces them to be conscious of it and then we can also run conversion rate numbers on it to make it a little bit easier to do analysis but um I do that at the end of every single day so at the bare minimum which having the Reps log their information every day.
Brendan: Yeah it's interesting it um it draws like those it reinforces um what you believe to be important and so you're creating Clarity on what you're being measured against and reinforcing that by making them do that that function at the end of the day um all right so Kyle let's go to the next topic so we talked a little bit about kind of the data and how technology can be used um but there's there is a human element and so where is the thing about um building a team what are the things that people should be mindful from a people perspective?
Kyle: So at the early stage I say something a little bit different that I do at the later stage at the early stage I typically am looking and I was about talking about account Executives who are responsible for selling sdrs I'll talk about in a minute because I have a different philosophy there but for account Executives you're going to hire somebody to manage your sales process it's a critical part of the business what I look for at the early stage somebody who has experience selling a similar product or into a similar market so if you sell to CMOS I want somebody who has experience selling to CMOS and I heavily weight that experience of course there's the intangibles like are they coachable um you know they're going to be good people to work with do they have curiosity like there's all these intangibles you're still going to look for all of that but I heavily wait past experience because I find it leads to much faster ramp times especially at the\ early stage and on top of that you want to look for people who have the history slash proof of um previous success and the reason why I'm so rigid on this in the early stage is because I've seen time and time again Founders will hire an account executive is going to get really excited turns out sales people are good at selling themselves and then what happens is three months later they're in a situation where they're like oh my gosh are they not successful because I suck at running a team are our leads terrible are they terrible you have no idea so what do you do you end up keeping that person for longer and longer next year you know you're eight months in with the same sales rep we haven't performed nearly as well as you need to in order to make it a profitable hire and everything is a disaster and I've seen that so many times I can't even tell you I can't even count it for you it's just so frequent that that happens so I heavily wait experience.
Brendan: Yeah I mean I think to your point they're the they're the non-negotiables which gets into like the personality traits the characteristics of the individuals and to your point is on top of that there's hey we need time to Value uh and we need to move quicker and especially the earlier stage to seetraction um and to accelerate that as to bring somebody in that either has experience in that field or selling to that the market that your product is serving so that makes a lot of sense um and maybe you mentioned some of the challenges that Founders have but I think it could be a more broader statement we talk about pitfalls um what are some of the common um mistakes um that you see it could be the founders trying to get out founder led to sales lead um or the CEO is they trying to bring out a sales team that they make?
Kyle: So I'll just pull out some random ones here one that I see is hiring a VP of sales too early I see this with venture-backed companies a lot where um they'll hire a VP of sales right after they raise some Capital it's a very hard role to hire and um I don't know if this is totally true so this is a raw opinion but I feel like if you spend less than three months evaluating a VP of sales candidate you probably didn't do it for long enough there's it's very very difficult to hire a VP of Sales um anyway so that's one mistake that I see is a higher VP of sales too early and they expect the VP of sales not only to build out their sales process but also to hire the Reps coach the Reps figure out you know the operation side of things like it's just too much um I find it much more effective when you hire VP of sales once you have traction with the sales team and the reality is as a Founder if you can't get a sales team to get some level of traction then there's no way you're hiring someone from outside to be able to do it I mean it's not happening very uncommon so that's the first one I'd say.
Brendan: Makes sense I think you know we we deal with a lot of when we interact with customers so I mean even yesterday I had the question of hey do we hire a VP of Salesforce or do we hire an AE first I was talking to a Founder um and I had a pretty similar response like you've gotta have any I mean in my mind you've got to have traction and it doesn't have to be perfect process but you need to have some level of traction to give that VP of sales but he or she needs to be successful because if throwing a Hail Mary is never usually a good outcome for that VP of sales in terms of expectations.
Kyle: Yeah I mean look I will say sometimes you get lucky and it's like oh we had somebody who's kind of in the wings forever who kind of built the sales team that was at a similar stage of our you know with no from no sales team to x amount and ARR and we've just been waiting for our opportunity to hire this person great I mean then of course you're gonna go it's gonna be less than three months you already know this person but as far as like hey we don't have any VP of sales candidates too I need to hire VP of sales it should be a very long and grueling process because t's a very expensive role and it's also one that is easy to get swept up in where you're like yeah they've been here for four months we haven't really seen much progress uh but we think like we're still building you know we're still building stuff here you see progress quicker than that so this is something that I see often.
Brendan: Yeah I feel like even in the VC backside too with all the I mean there's so much downward pressure being applied uh these days so I mean it's probably a good discipline in practice for VC as well our VC backed as well as for bootstrapped to follow that process uh well Kyle this has been a really informative conversation and I know our audience is really going to appreciate somebody's best practices and sure you can create that repeatable process at an earlier stage um so you don't get slowed down by some of the people and Technology side uh what what are ways in which our audience can engage with with you or your firm?
Kyle: So you can find me on LinkedIn it's Kyle Vamvouris if you go to vouris.com that's we have a ton of free resources blog posts uh we put out a lot of content and um you'll see our YouTube channel on there probably best place to go whether you want to work with us or not you'll find a lot of really good content there.
Brendan: I love it value-added content uh is a good uh first step for our audience to take and um hopefully from there they can engage with you so Kyle thanks for coming on we really do appreciate it and have a great day.
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