The Future of Sales with GrowthGenius

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Monthly Archives: October 2018

The Future of Sales with GrowthGenius

Familiarity and a fresh perspective are key elements to the success of GrowthGenius, a Toronto-based scaleup that automates B2B prospecting.

GrowthGenius uses data-driven AI to generate more outbound sales. But Will Richman and Brandon Pizzacalla, co-founders of GrowthGenius, never had any past experience in sales.

Initially an obstacle, the longtime friends (since high school) now see their unfamiliarity with traditional sales-culture as a reason for GrowthGenius’s success.

“A big hurdle that gave us an advantage early on was that we started with a completely fresh understanding of how to connect with someone through cold outreach” said Richman, CEO and co-founder of GrowthGenius.

“A lot of sales organizations are broken. They get caught up on the terminology, the process, and how things have been done… We don’t focus on how things have been done in the past. We want to help folks out and bring immediate results”

Taking a counter-culture approach to sales has led to a few disagreements between the company’s founders and more traditional sales teams, including some GrowthGenius employees.

But the approach seems to be working.

In a little under a year, from September 2017 to July 2018, GrowthGenius grew a customer network of two in to 40, generating an annual recurring revenue (ARR) of over $1 million.

Solving a major pain-point for companies (in their case it’s helping businesses reaching the ideal customer) is another element to the company’s growth.

“Helping people close deals is so valuable and it’s something so many companies have trouble doing”

GrowthGenius does that by acting as an extension of a business’s sales team. After analyzing past sales data, GrowthGenius can extrapolate that information to create and send one-to-one email copy for targeted audiences, an entirely automated process.

From there, all the sales team has to do is focus on positive responses rather than waste time with prospecting.

Pizzacalla describes the process as “the future of sales” because now, and definitely in the near future, “no one is going to be doing the work that can be done by machines.”

Solving a particular pain-point and learning to sell their product at an early stage are two key lessons Richman and Pizzacalla would impart to other entrepreneurs.

Another is building your business with the right team members.

“The earliest people in the business” said Pizzacalla, “you should know them for a long time.”

That’s exactly what Pizzacalla and Richman did with GrowthGenius. Duncan McCall, head of customer team, partnered with Richman in a past business venture. Ryan Nahas, head of sales, was Pizzacalla’s roommate.

Doing so ensures you know how a team member will likely react in all sorts of situations, both good and bad.

It’s also important to onboard people who have a different set of skills, adds Richman.

As a business grows “you’re going to be doing very different things” said Richman, “and if you have the same skillset you’re going to fight over the same turf.”

Building a business solely with close friends isn’t exactly scalable, of course, so GrowthGenius’s founders recommend hiring through referrals.

About fifty percent of the 24-person GrowthGenius team were recommended by friends or current employees.

“If you’re bringing on awesome people they’re going to bring in other awesome people”

Becoming a Cybersecurity Hero

Technology continues to evolve at a cheetah-like pace and Canadian companies are helping to shape its future. But within this era of seemingly infinite technological breakthroughs, the challenge has become the need to safeguard companies (and us!) from cyberattacks. And it’s tough because the better companies (and us!) get at protecting themselves, there always seems to be a new threat knocking on the door.

This means, in Canada and around the world, there is a need for more innovators in the field of cybersecurity. Basically we need more cybersecurity heroes.

“It has become incredibly important to protect personal and customer data and because of that we need some great players to make possible change happen” said Abdullah Snobar, Executive Director of the DMZ, at the launch of CanHack 2018.

Partnering with the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), the DMZ at Ryerson University helped to foster the next generation of cybersecurity experts through CanHack, a competition exclusively for Canadian high school students. It’s just one of the ways RBC is supporting and creating meaningful work opportunities for students in the cybersecurity space.

CanHack is challenging students over the course of two weeks to work with industry experts and learn cybersecurity skills, an essential set of capabilities in today’s commercial sector.

Adam Evans, VP, Cyber Operations and Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at RBC emphasizes that major businesses are becoming more and more digitized, creating a dire need to digitally protect customers. As a result, organizations like RBC have to change the way they hire. Companies don’t necessarily need individuals with the technical skills to solve the cybersecurity issues of today.

“Companies are looking for people…with the critical thinking skills who can solve really hard problems really quickly”

Developing problem solving and analytical skills was at the core of CanHack; students didn’t necessarily need advanced computer programming skills to participate. The competition’s problem sets were spread across four levels, with critical thinking and innovative problem-solving at the core of every problem set. Winners will be announced on November 27, 2018.

To find out more about cybersecurity, the newly launched Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity is actively protecting important government services against digital assaults and a wealth of cybersecurity information can be found at the Cybersecurity Awareness Month website.

Bouncing back from startup setbacks

Marie Chevrier spent years building DropGift, a startup that allowed users to send gift cards through Facebook, pouring her heart and soul into the project.

Soon after (and rather suddenly) a leading competitor to DropGift was acquired by tech giant Facebook. Chevrier and her team were left with no real future opportunities in the space. Startup setbacks, like what happened with DropGift, can happen at any time. An essential skill for entrepreneurs, then, is being able to bounce right back.

“For me, that first business was kind of like my MBA” said Chevrier, now CEO of Sampler, which helps brands distribute physical product samples to digitally targeted customers.

DropGift may have failed, but, as Chevrier now understands, the experience gave her the core skills necessary to launch Sampler. Understanding that failures are part of the entrepreneurial process is essential to keep in mind when building up a startup. Sampler, for instance, faced more than a few setbacks early on.

In its infancy, Sampler used Facebook as its sole platform to connect audiences with brands. But, as the Sampler team soon found out, being beholden to Facebook caused some problems.

“Every time Facebook changed their policies, we would have to jump through 20 hoops” said Kelly Stewart, head of marketing at Sampler.

Eventually, after growing increasingly frustrated, Stewart, Chevrier, and the Sampler team decided to change their operation entirely. To remove the obstacle of Facebook entirely, Sampler created their own platform to connect with audiences.

An ongoing issue became an opportunity for growth.

“Don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board, no matter what stage you’re at… It can be a huge payoff if you’re willing to take that risk.”

Setbacks in a startup setting can, of course, come in many forms. Problems can be tangible, like a software glitch, or a valued employee may suddenly leave the team. The latter situation is something Chevrier dealt with recently at Sampler, when a key operations employee decided to start their own entrepreneurial venture.

“Instead of looking at it as an ‘oh crap we’re screwed’ situation… I decided to make it into an opportunity and go deeper into their role.”

So, before the team member departed, Chevier spent time working alongside them, gaining a newfound understanding of the business, especially aspects she hadn’t paid attention to in a while. The lessons learned were also invaluable when rewriting the position’s job description, which had evolved drastically since the initial hire, something other startup executives should consider doing, says Chevrier.

Finding the silver lining isn’t always an easy task, especially when your business is on the line.

When facing a serious problem, one that you don’t think can be remedied, Chevrier has a strategy for that, too: get some rest.

“Everything is better after a good night’s sleep… Give yourself the trust that you’ll figure it out once you’re well rested.”