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Three lessons from selling to developers Episode 7

Three lessons from selling to developers

In today’s episode, Jack discusses what it was like working in a sales team at Stack Overflow, selling to developers, and why you should think about sales in terms of champions.

· 09:23


Hey everyone. This is Jack from BitReach, and you're listening to another episode of Scaling DevTools. The show that investigates how DevTools go from zero to one today's episode is a little bit different. We don't have a guest. I am going to be speaking a little bit about some of my experiences and specifically my experience working in sales for Stack Overflow on one of their very new products.

Well, it was new when I joined the team. So the product was Stack Overflow for teams. It's essentially Stack Overflow, but behind a login that only people from your company you can join. If someone posts a question like when I hit this API end point, why do I go back? All of our users, passwords and someone in your team could ask that, and then you could solve it without.

Suddenly everyone on 4Chan getting all your customers' passwords. I was, what's called a Sales Development rep, which is the person who's responsible for booking meetings. I got paid to book meetings, so I'd get a bonus if I had one meeting.

And then if that meeting went to like a certain stage in the funnel progressed, I'd get another bonus. And then if the deal actually closed, I'd get a percentage of the deal, but not like a high percentage. I wasn't like the closing. I was the opener essentially. And how we got leads was either as an inbound. So someone would sign up for, a demo on the website, on Stack Overflow's website, and that would get allocated to me.

You'd share out the leads and I'd get them sometimes. And other times, which was for us was most of the time was we were cold emailing, cold calling, going to conferences. Cold Linkedin messaging, Twitter. And as I said, I was one of the first people on this team. A lot of the processes, one in place, there were very few marketing leads, even though we were a small team and Stack Overflow is a huge company. 50 million developers every month, I think was the start at the time when I worked there.

But very few inbound leads. That's one of the first things to take away from this is when a sales person get's an inbound lead, it's like a euphoric moment. If it's a good company, I should say I was selling to very big companies.

So let's say I get a lead from a really big company in the UK, then I am super stoked and I'm going to try and set up a call with them, and then I'm immediately going to get some money and that's great. And those have a very high probability of success, relative to outbound, outbound. However, to developers is extremely difficult. I have worked as a developer and I never checked my emails when I was working as a Dev. Because no one emails me, it's all on Slack. It was very, very rare I ever got an email. A little bit different at corporates, but I think broadly very similar.

Those cold emails are barely going to go, and then developers are much more skeptical, you know, like, ah, salespeople. So it's really hard. LinkedIn developers tend not to use LinkedIn very much because they just get spammed by recruiters. They might even think you are a recruiter.

So you have to send a lot of emails. We weren't allowed to spam developers because we're Stack Overflow. I don't like doing that anyway, but we weren't allowed. So every email was tailored to the person and still the response rate was so low and this work was hard. Like researching someone, you feel like you got to know them, you send them an email and you just get ignored.

You just do that all day, every day. And it's really hard. There are times when I had success with that was when I found someone that already really cared about this topic, that was by far the best way to connect with someone. So for instance, I had someone that had already had this idea, a big company, a really big company in Europe.

He'd like written all these articles about how knowledge sharing was not very good at big companies. And we should all be doing a kind of internal version of stack overflow. I sent him this really long email, which is not usually advised by send him a long email saying, your article's great because blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Here's how we agree. Blah, blah, blah, all this sort of stuff. And he was so happy to receive this email and we were helping him achieve something that he already wanted to do. And now he suddenly had the force of Stack Overflow behind him and that deal, became a really big deal.

So I think that's another lesson is that. Trying to connect with people that already have a problem. You're probably not in a cold email going to persuade someone to just rethink, if you receive a cold email and you're like, oh, well I guess the world is not how I thought it is. And it's how this person says.

If I just change my email hosting provider, everything will be solved, probably not. But if someone's already demonstrated that they care a lot about this. And that maybe they've tried to do something already when you reach out to them and you show that you also care about this problem.

Then I think that's a great way to connect with people and then your incentives are aligned. So it doesn't even matter that you're a sleazy sales person trying to get a hold of them.

Another thing that I learned at Stack Overflow is to qualify your leads. It is a cliche, but don't waste time on people that aren't going to ever buy. I took someone out for food. I took them to get Sushi on my own expense. And there was no hope in how this company was ever going to buy.

And this person was a good lead. It was like my ego or something. It just helped me feel better. They were just an individual in a company that was on the cusp of laying off half their team. And I spent a lot of time on that, building a relationship with this person.

He was a nice guy and we got him really well. We had a real common interest, but ultimately it was never going to lead to anything. So that was another big thing that I learned at stack overflow because these deals can take two years easily and you have to build up a kind of big swell, to make these happen. So they should not be undertaken lightly.

Which brings me on to the core, core thing that I learned at stack overflow that you should think about field DevTool. And this is champions. You should think about Sales in terms of champions. If you're selling to a founder, they're going to be someone who's hopefully passionate about your problem and they're going to be able to implement it.

So that's the kind of dream scenario of a champion. Passionate, and they've got power and they'll make it happen. You don't really even need to help them that much because they're the founder. They can make it happen. If you're selling to a big organization. You need someone who that job success is heavily aligned to what you do, and they believe that your company can help them do this thing.

And then you need to help them as much as possible to close. The first step is getting them to finding someone that actually cares about this. And then the second step is to actually just help them as much as you can to bring the deal home. So let's, let's say that, someone who's.

A scrum master or something in a big organization, they may be very passionate about this tool, but they need to somehow get the VP of engineering on site as well. So you've got to help them to pitch the VP of engineering, get the VP of engineering. And then help them run and make sure all the right people are involved, finding out who, needs to sign off on this deal.

Are there any like budget requirements? So there are any like things that have to go through legal and all of these sorts of stuff, and I'm really helping them to do it. But if you've just got a load of people who are like, yeah, this seems like a good idea. It's never going to happen. So you just have to, you have to really find that champion.

As a quick recap, inbound leads are golden. I really don't think that outbound is the way to go for developer tools companies.

I really think that you should be doing a lot of marketing. Because developers don't like getting cold emails and stuff like that. They prefer to discover things, do their research themselves. Secondly, qualify out people. So don't get caught up in a deal that is just never going to happen. And then thirdly, really focus on champions. You need to find that one person who's really aligned to solving your problem and really wants to get that deal home and then help them do it.

I hope you enjoyed this. It's a bit different to, than my other episodes. And it's also on sales, which we haven't really covered yet. Let me know how you found it and, we'll be back very soon. Thank you for listening.

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