It was a grind. For context Interviewed was selling assessments and recruiting solutions to enterprises (large insurance companies, tech companies, outsourcing companies, etc), some mid market and a handful of SMB customers.
I got the first $2 million in revenue myself before we ever hired a salesperson, and that was critical. I think that as the founder of a company, getting your first hundred customers is one of the most important things you can do. I don’t know many-if any- successful people that outsource this piece. It’s kind of like building a team. You want to be super hands on with hiring, customer development, and finding product market fit.
We had a broad approach at Interviewed, which I think is extremely important. Most founders pigeonhole their idea way too early. This can take a lot of different forms; you can pigeonhole yourself on price, geography, industry, and target customer.
One question to ask for a B2B product is who will be purchasing it. In our space (recruiting), we ask: is a CFO, a hiring manager, or a head of recruiting more likely to buy the product? My thesis was that we don’t have the answer, so we’re just going to try to appeal to as broad of an audience as possible.
For the first two years of our company, every business day I would pick one to five companies to cold email. I would scrape emails from LinkedIn and email 20 to 30 people within each company. My goal was always 20 cold emails a day and in a lot of cases it was more like 80 cold emails per day.
If you work at a large company, you need some signals. If somebody asks, “Hey, have you guys heard about Sellerant? Have you heard about this guy David?” The last thing you want is for everybody in the company to say no. So a lot of times what would happen is, I would pick one company, I would send a minimum of 20, probably a maximum of 80 emails, all semi or fully customized, and I would send them to almost everybody in the C suite (CEO, COO, CFO, or chief HR officer). I’d also email any VP that I thought was relevant and as many recruiters and HR people as I could find.
And what you would say is something like this:
My name is Chris and I’m the founder of Interviewed. We have a super exciting way for companies to assess the skills of people who are applying to their jobs. Can I show you a demo?
In many cases, especially for our first hundred customers, the response would be, “I don’t know, I’ve never heard of you. But it’s weird. My VP forwarded me the same email.” And so you hit these companies from every possible angle and people forward the emails and say, “Have you heard of these guys? Maybe we should talk to them.”
Our conversion funnel from those cold emails was to then get people on a demo. In general, we would do as many demos as it took. Our first 10 customers paid us between $300 and $500 per month. As we closed in on 100 customers, we had customers paying us $30,000 for the same product for the same platform- it was just a much bigger use case.
When we looked back across our first hundred customers, we found something crazy. When we looked across our first hundred contracts, or first hundred customers, we found that we sold to recruiters, VPs and C Suite executives. If we had pigeonholed too early and said, “we’re a recruiting tool, and we’re only going to target recruiters,” we would have missed out on a ton of potential buyers and eliminated the opportunities we had with CEOs, CFOs and VPs of engineering and sales.
So our early process was just taking it one day at a time. We’d get contact info from LinkedIn and cold email a ton of people in the company. Then we’d move on to the next company the next day, and while we were doing that just try to get really good at demoing. That was how we got our first hundred customers and grew to ~$2M in ARR.