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Break into the US SaaS market with Jen from JJellyfish

Jen is co-founder of JJellyfish, a really exciting sales consultancy that helps global founders break into the US-market with great GTM research and expertise. We’re thrilled to have Jen on the podcast to discuss a wide range of topics including early-stage sales, nailing product-market fit, founder-led growth, and more

July 6, 2023

Sri: Welcome to The Factors Podcast. In this podcast we talk to senior leaders CXOs and founders ofB2B SaaS and marketing companies. And in this special podcast we have Jen whois one of the. Best sales leaders for early stage companies. One of the salesbest sales consultants for early stage companies I have come across.

Sri: And she runs jjellyfish. And one of the primary agendas of j jellyfish is helping global companies break into the US market. And that is the biggest market. Almost every single B2B SaaS company has a US strategy. And in this podcast, we would be learning from her on what are the things which we need to do to break into the US market.

Sri: What are the mistakes early stage companies do more details on early stage sales, and what do you do before marketing kicks up? That's what we are trying to learn here.Hey Jen. Welcome here. You have been a friend of ours and an advisor and an investor in us. Very, very, very, very happy and excited to have you on our podcast and looking forward to learn from you.

Sri: As always, and also make sure that we share the learnings to the rest of our community aswell, so that they can also benefit from that. Welcome Jen Sri.

Jen: It's amazing to be here. Thanks so much for having me.

Sri: Thanks a lot,Jen. Jen I have, I have known you or actually worked with you almost for almostthree years now, since the almost the time when we started up.

Sri: And I have knownyour journey in the last three years. But what I'd also like to learn is like,how did the idea of j Jellyfish happen? Yeah. How did you see that opportunityin the market and how did you end up starting up with J Jelly? Yeah,

Jen: it's it's ainteresting story. So Justin and I, my co-founder Justin, the, that's where thedouble Js come from.

Jen: We both met at aprevious employer a YC backed startup called The Muse. And then before that Iwas at a ed tech company called General Assembly which was which was a Darlenein the early days 2004, 2000, 2014, 2015. So they, they were one of like, kindof the very first New York City startups to really have strong traction and,and an amazing exit.

Jen: And I was alwaysthat first or second sales hire that they brought in on the enterprise side,right? So they started out either B2C or they were starting out at SMB and theyhired us, or hired me and Justin to come in to build out the enterprisedivision, right? Go out and sell to enterprise clients and.

Jen: While the firsttime I did it, I said, okay, yeah, that sounds great. I'll go out and do that.How hard could that be? Right? Just go out, get some meetings, learn and bringthat back to headquarters. Well, it turned out without any level of a visionconstraints or the founder, it is near impossible. So in my first role atGeneral Assembly, you know, went off on my own for the first month or two andthen realized what am I doing? I am literally wandering, meeting from meeting,trying to figure out what the market wants, try with no vision no constraintsexcept what we were previously doing downmarket. And I realized, oh my God, Ineed the founder to be deeply involved in this process with me.

Jen: Cuz what's thevision of where we wanna eventually take this? That was above my pay grade. SoI would bring the founder in and say, listen, we're gonna have this meeting. Ineed you here. We're gonna go. I will go super deep into where they'repotentially prioritizing some problems, but like, what are the one or twothings we wanna solve for them?

Jen: And like usethat as the guardrails or the constraints. And what I realized in both ofthese, you know, full-time positions is. The first sales hire is not set up forsuccess, right? Because they usually are not given a, given a plan. They'reusually taught to go out and get meetings with this type of customer and go figureout what they want.

Jen: But withoutknowing any I, without having a vision on the problems that I think they'refacing, I don't even know how to run these meetings. So we were constantlypulling in the founder in the early days to help us constrain and focus. Wherethose problems potentially lift. And I was like, wait a second, this might be abroader market problem.

Jen: And sure enoughthat insight allow us to stumble into launching jellyfish, which we originallylaunched to support US seed stage companies, and then quickly realized ourvalue proposition was even stronger. In the international markets becausethere's a lot more wandering that happens then when you don't have us uscontext or US commercial experience.

Jen: So I'll pausethere. I know that a little bit of a roundabout answer.

Sri: I mean, you saw the problem first hand when you were early sales, sales hire, and then started off with it for US sales companies. And then international. So international obviously means across countries and nations, which are trying to break into the India, or sorry, US market.

Sri: But in thisregard what was the specific space or stage at which you enter? Is it somethinglike when the company is. A couple of million in revenue or like pre-revenue orpre-product. Yep. When is the time

Jen: when youactually enter? Yep. So I think the past two years have created a lot ofmisconceptions .

Jen: About usexpansion. So, Sri, we gotta work with you. Before, zero interest rates wasreally a you know, that became really the, the bubble that we saw, but, There'stwo ways to think about us expansion. Are you building for the US market on dayone and is that your sole focus? Right. Well, at that point, pre-seed isimportant to spend time here in and understand the us, right.

Jen: If that's whereyou're, who you're building for, if you're building for your local marketfirst. Okay. Wait until you have some level of product market fit there,because trying to serve two distinct markets at the same time. Mm-hmm. I mean,let alone it's hard enough to find product market fit in one market, let alonetwo.

Jen: So, and thoseare two different ICPs as well, or ideal customer profiles. So I usuallysuggest if you're building for the US market on day one, that's an easy answer.It's as early as you can. Mm-hmm. If you're building for the US market as likethe secondary market that you eventually wanna move into after your localmarket, my God, it's expensive to experiment in the US Right?

Jen: Between time thefounder needs to be fully dedicated to it. I would say that usually comes in,you know, with. In a more mature seed, not like a, you know, there's a lot ofpeople raising seed that are really more pre-seed. So I would say your properseed or even maybe a proper a okay, because US expansion is, and you talk andsre we could talk about this directly.

Jen: It is not easy,right? It ta there's a lot of invalidation that happens. The US market isfickle. They are constantly being. Sold to from various alternatives. So youneed to be fully prepared and fully dedicated to this market. Mm-hmm. Beforeyou, before you make any leap or tip your toes in.

Sri: Actually, therewas one interesting point that you mentioned about you should have productmarket fit for us.

Sri: So you might havegot product market fit in a, some other country or a region or a segment, butif you're coming to us, you have to get product market fit in US. Yep. Howdifferent it is. Why is it different? Why as a market expansion into US or P MF in us itself is very, very different.

Jen: Yep. So firstly,if you're an international company, that's a headwind, right?

Jen: Why is a USbusiness going to trust someone that is not physically based here, or even hascustomers here yet, right? Like mm-hmm. You have to fight through that thatinertia, right? Mm-hmm. And sometimes that's easier than others, right? Ifyou're entering a very crowded market, that becomes harder.

Jen: If you'reentering a more budding market where there's not many alternatives becomes alittle bit easier, right? For the obvious reasons. But product market fit inthe US in its true form, like true product market fit, not momentum investing,product market fit, where, you know, people were just throwing money at anyonethat was able to get a customer true, proper product market fit.

Jen: Where you aregetting a cr, incredible amount of inbound demand, you're generating over amillion dollars in arr that could take two plus years, right? Like, you know,before. 2021, it was usually a 18 to 24 month process, right? Because it takesa lot of refinement to get there, right? It's experiment after experiment. It'schiseling away at the sculpture. It's refining it. It's how precise are you andwhere is that market demand? And sometimes it takes time to build market demandbecause they might be interested in solving it tomorrow, but maybe not today.So true product market fit in the in its. Mature essence, mm-hmm.

Jen: Is usually a twoyear sprint. And I think there is this gross misconception that it can be donein three months or six months. Right. And I have never seen a startup thatisn't fueled by super low interest rates achieve product market fit in under 90days.

Sri: Yeah. Oh yeah.under 90 days. I don't think I mean, it's very, very difficult even to landand, and land couple of customers in until single leave alone a million dollarplus in terms of run rate feeding of that inbound, unless you have experimentedand failed many times. That's more of a personal experience.

Jen: Try time box,product market, that, that they'll say we need to get this done in six months.

Jen: And I'm like,You have no control over the time of how long it takes to get to product market.Obviously you wanna do that as fast as possible, but mm-hmm. You know, it stilltakes, I mean, to generate a million dollars in arr. Mm-hmm. Right. Most ofthat's gonna come from outbound cuz you don't really have brand equity here yetin most cases.

Jen: Right. So that'san, that's minimum 18 months.

Sri: And with theproduct and also the product evolving or in terms of what, what you have tochange both in terms of churn. Yep. Use cases, churn, and others. Interesting.You mentioned a very important thing in terms of like the founder beinginvested and the founder being part of the whole journey and vision.

Sri: And gettingthrough the whole bring, bring the product live into that market. In this case,what have you, what are the kind of best practices you found good founders to?I mean, you would've worked with more than a hundred plus founders across theboard. You have seen so many companies, maybe over the last three, four years,right from the time when they wouldn't have had product market fit to the timewhen they are more than a couple of million dollars in revenue.

Sri: If you can helpus understand like what is the process? Yeah. You have seen what are the bestpractices? You have seen some of the good founders follow maybe with someexamples or even no name examples so that we can kind of associate with

Jen: it. So the bestfounders, right. Or the second or third time founders cuz usually it's thesecond or third time founders that end up being the best founders.

Jen: Cause they madeall the mistakes the first time around. So I like to say like the second andthird time founders. That we work with. Okay. They understand the importance ofconstraints and vision testing. Mm-hmm. A lot of first time founders will cometo us and say, Hey, we wanna go speak to customers. Say, great.

Jen: What do youwanna speak to them about? I wanna understand their problems. Okay. You need tohave some level of idea about what problems they're facing. Otherwise, having aconversation with someone without constraints or guardrails or assumptions.We'll lead a zero because you're just gonna collect a lot of noise.

Jen: Right? If youask me today what keeps me up at night, I'm gonna give you a different answernext Monday. Mm-hmm. Right? Cause I'm dealing with a different fire drill.Right. If you ask me would I use this, I'll probably be nice and say Sure.Right. If you ask me you know, some of these high level questions that everyonewants to ask because they don't have vision, they're testing.

Jen: Right. They fallinto trap of these, like what I call macro. discussion points. That doesn'tgive you deep insight. Anyone can have that conversation, right? Mm-hmm. Sowhen you have a conversation with a customer, it needs to be a conversationthat no one else is having with them. Cuz that's the only way you're gonnaunearth deep insight.

Jen: Mm-hmm. Right?If I said, Hey, is solving X problem in seven days really important to you?Right? And I put a framing around seven days and they say, you know what, aslong as it can be done in five days, that's okay. Great. Why is five daysimportant now that allows me to go deeper and deeper and deeper than someonethat's just having a generic, open-ended conversation.

Jen: So, so manyfounders, specifically international founders, will come into the US market andwander. They'll place their, they'll put their suitcase down in San Francisco.They'll take a bunch of first meetings. They'll have a bunch of meetings, andthen after 30 days you ask them, what did you learn? And they'll say, oh, youknow, so and so wanted to get on a demo call.

Jen: Great. What didyou learn? Go deeper. So, Hmm. And all of a sudden there's, there's no realdepth to their understanding or the experiments that they're running and theyget nowhere. Right? And I always tell founders if it was as easy as having aconversation in an open-ended conversation, like, what keeps you up at night?

Jen: Okay, everyonecould do this, right? The only thing that separates you from the next person isthe vision you have, and allowing that vision to allow you to go deeper anddeeper into these conversations. Otherwise, someone can build this overnight.

Sri: Makes sense. Soone thing which I get is of course the having the vision.

Sri: And that'ssomething which each and every founder, and that's the problem which they wantto solve for, and that's something which they want to go after. Whether it'llbe a hundred million dollar revenue company or a $1 billion revenue company.Yep. That's something to go off. So, and in a sense it's up to each founder'sself-realization and introspection to get that out.

Sri: But after that,you made a nice. Point around designing a well-designed experiment or like whatis a well and that's some, can you go a little deeper on that of what is actuallya well-designed experiment? Yeah.

Jen: What does itmean? So a well, yeah, a well-designed experiment. Firstly, is written down.

Jen: It is on a pieceof paper that you can hold yourself accountable to. Your co-founder can holdyou accountable too. Your team can hold you accountable. There is clear. Thereare clear instructions around what everyone is marching towards. Right. Go tomarket and product. Market fit is a team sport. Mm-hmm.

Jen: It needs to bewritten down. Okay. So firstly, who you have to answer the who. Who do youwanna serve? Mm-hmm. Who do you wanna go out and learn from? Okay. Who do you,you believe is passionate about this? Let's just start with the who. Okay. Thesecond question is the why. Why do they care? Mm-hmm. Okay, now you can writedown three or four reasons why they care.

Jen: In fact, youmight have 10 reasons why they care. Mm-hmm. Right. But usually those 10 bubbleup until usually three or four assumptions.

Jen: They areassumptions, meaning I believe X mm-hmm. Is unable to achieve Y because of Z.

Jen: Right? Mm-hmm.What are they unable to achieve and why do they care? Right. What is preventingthem from growing? What is preventing them from cost savings? What ispreventing them from moving faster? What is preventing them from furtherde-risking X, right? Like what is that thing and why do they care?

Jen: Right? So manypeople will say, oh, they wanna move faster. Why? Why do they wanna movefaster? What's at risk if they don't move faster? And they can't answer that?So I'm like, that is that really an assumption? And also move faster meanssomething , at every different organization. So put constraints around that.

Jen: I believe thatmarketers want to be able to go from 30 days to 10 days to increase revenue orregarding whatever it be, right? Mm-hmm. Okay. Seven days is testable. Sevendays means the same thing to you, to me, to anyone else. We go out andinterview, but if I said they wanna move faster, you're gonna get differentanswers for every single person because move faster means something differentto everyone.

Jen: It's not aself-evident term. So when you are putting down assumptions, make sure thoseassumptions are self-evident so that you can compare apples to apples so thatyou can unlock repeatable themes, right? If you're having differentconversations with everyone, there's no con, there's no consistency.

Jen: Consistency iswhat allows you to unlock repeatability. So in writing down these assumptions,make sure they're self-evident. One of them needs to be proven true in orderfor this whole thing to work. So you might invalidate everything. That's okay.Where is the rejection redirecting you? Okay? And most importantly, everyconversation you have create guardrails around the questions you are askingthem.

Jen: Okay? Becausethose questions need to be held consistent from conversation to conconversation. Otherwise, you'll never unlock repeatable themes. So when you goout and have conversations with the market, make sure you're having the sametype of conversation otherwise. You're gonna, again, un unearth differentconversations with everyone, which yields nothing.

Jen: It goes back tothis idea of wandering. So you write it down on paper when it's documented,when people can poke and prod at it and can put you under a microscope. Yes,it's daunting. Yes, it's nervous, but like that's what gets you ahead.

Sri: Got it. Sointeresting. You made a very important point around I mean, I write down 10assumptions.

Sri: Mm-hmm. Only onehas to work. I have to invalidate or try invalidating the remaining 10.Correct. Remaining nine of them. How does that work? I mean, because generallywhen you, if the assumptions get invalidated, you would feel kind of like youmight have to ditch that idea and go after some other idea or like, go aroundthis thing.

Sri: How does theinvalidating assumptions as the primary goal actually fit into the whole So,

Jen: Most of yourvision if you're doing it properly, will be invalidated, right? Why nofounder's initial vision day one really stands a chance with the market, right?Because you have to take the market reality today and ensure it aligns withyour vision.

Jen: Well, there's 0%chance that. You're gonna be 50% of the correct time. Correct. Right. It's a,usually a very small piece of your vision will be proven true. Mm-hmm. Also, ifyou're not invalidating, you are not going deep enough or you're bringing waytoo much bias into the equation. Right. Actually in our engagement, I'll letyou speak to it.

Jen: Did you see moreinvalidation or validation in the first time we went out to market and why?

Sri: I saw a lot of invalidations. I was a little kind of. worried, but later when we dug deeper Imean from my own experience, and maybe you can talk too about it as well, thatlike it's like maybe I would say maybe I was naive as a founder thinking allthese are problems which exist when you go and question, you can say like, oh,there are alternatives or there's reason why this is not a problem.

Sri: This is not aburning problem. Correct. Or something of that reason. And then we found thesliver point of like maybe one bear, like nobody has solved for. But now it isemerging as a problem. Yeah. Because of whatever the reasons, because of like,okay, more B2B SaaS companies are coming through, more funding is comingthrough, more people are investing in marketing.

Sri: So then becauseof either because of the time, because of either the market has changed orbecause of some very particular reason which nobody solved for it until nowbecause they didn't have the technology or the team or the kind of like eventhe server infrastructure or something like that at that point in time.

Sri: Hence that'ssliver. Is that, that's something which we found. But is this true for almostevery single company which goes through, or is it something

Jen: which No, Iwould say the more invalidation we do, that means the deeper your assumptionswere. Okay. So that is a very healthy, good thing. Mm-hmm. More importantly, ifyou're not invalidating a lot, that means you're still here.

Jen: Mm-hmm. Right.We wanted to turn you into a laser because it being specific. Is the only thingthat separates you from anyone else, right? Being specific on the problem yousolve. So when we say invalidation, invalidation is such a healthy, importantaspect to this that a lot of founders are allergic to because they think theyneed to be correct.

Jen: Your job is notto know. It's to question, right? If every founder started out and was like,oh, I know this to be true. That's why the, that's why the, the they never getto product market fit, right? Like if you, you have to question everything andyou have to go deeper because if you're questioning why something is validated,you're gonna get a deeper insight than anyone else you, which will allow you tobe more specific than anyone else.

Jen: This is thesecret sauce, right? It is be specific, unearth a deep insight that no one elsehas been able to ask cuz they didn't have the vision for it. That's the onlyway to separate everyone else, right? It creates the entire business model. So,so many fa like this is like where I you, where the ecosystem is, like thateducation isn't fully there yet.

Jen: Like everyoneknows the importance of finding their wedge, but they don't understand why awedge is so important, right? They're like, oh, I need to get here, but Ireally don't know why I need to get here, but I'm just gonna get here. And theanswer is, you don't have the resources to go out and serve anyone.

Jen: And the only wayto separate you from the pack is to be able to be specific.

Sri: Got it. But onething is like when you make assumptions and when you are invalidating,sometimes you might validate or invalidate truisms and truisms. Yep. Forfounders, it'll look, yeah, this is there and this is a reason, but actuallyit's not.

Sri: And how do youavoid it? When you go through the customer discovery? How do you

Jen: avoid truisms?Yeah. Yeah. That's all part of the design of the experiment. It's hard.Designing assumptions are very hard, right? . But a truism is something that.We know, of course the answer is yes.

Sri: For example, I meansomething I want to reduce cost. I want to increase revenue.

Jen: I want moreleads. Correct? I wanna reduce cost. I want more leads. I wanna de-risk theability to get hacked. Like of course, yes, of course. Like, but how does thatgive you a deeper insight beyond a yes, it doesn't, right? And when youvalidate a truism or you spend time at truisms because you're scared of goingdeeper, Again, it will yield no new insight or no unique insight to fueleverything else.

Jen: You'll just bestuck in the pack.

Sri: Got it. Well,that's, I think it would really come into the designing that sprint. How muchtime does it take to design that experiment? When you work with

Jen: Yeah, when wework, when, when we work with you, when we worked with you, or when we workwith any founder, it's usually about two weeks.

Jen: Right. They gotdown all the reasons. Then we start to bucket them, then we refining them, andthen there's this question of, okay, I want you to sleep on this for 72 hours.Do you feel good? Why not? Yes. Right. And pressure that because we, you can onlytest four things at once, right? You, when you have a con, you have a 30 minuteconversation with someone.

Jen: You can't go in,you can't go 10 questions deep. Mm-hmm. Right? Otherwise, they're gonna feellike you're, you know, you're peppering them, but, What are the four that youfeel confident in? Take a moment. Sleep on it. Do we wanna iterate them at all?Let's go out and test. And there are some founders that have analysis paralysiswhere they can't hit go and they slow down the process.

Jen: They're justgetting in their own way. Right. And you, the only way you learn is throughexperimenting. And the longer you're sitting on your hands, the more you'redying. Right. If you're not learning, you're dying. Mm-hmm. Especially

Sri: in this. Yeah,it's true. And what do you do after that? So you go through the designing theexperiment.

Sri: Yep. And afterthat, what is next step? So

Jen: I alwayssuggest, just doing one experiment with jellyfish is the start. You now need tocontinue this process to further refine, you know, we're only doing this for 90days, but as the founder, you should be running multiple experiments, right. Asa, when you raise your seed, Your entire seed round should be experiment afterexperiment, refinement after refinement, precision after precision.

Jen: And I actuallyasked a question to the community, cause I don't know the answer to this. Isthere a higher likelihood that a company will go off and raise a series B, Aseries C, A series D if they spend more time in the seed stage experimenting,right? Because series A is more about taking what works and now beginning toscale it.

Jen: And making itrepeatable. But the seed stage is really about the refinement piece. So if youspend more time in the seed, is that actually yield a higher li a like likelihoodof you lasting? Got it. That's an assumption. I don't know. But like it justall goes back to the point of running one experiment is not enough.

Jen: And I tellfounders that all the the time. You have to continually run experiments andcontinually question, and when things are validated, understand the why. Keepunderstanding the why, because it's so easy to take any idea that you heard andthen go off and execute on it. But again, anyone can do that.

Jen: So the only wayyou can kind of build a competitive positioning is cont continually questioningyourself in a healthy way.

Sri: It'sinteresting. I'm think I think when I was thinking about it also, likecontinuously questioning and going through it for the whole entire seed roundbefore you refine and have something in place which you can actually take tothe market and scale.

Sri: But generallyfounders and including anyone who raised a seed round. Start coming into bothbuilding and revenue pressure. So that is one a build pressure. Like let'sbuild, build, build. If you build something would going to happen. That'ssomething which one of the problems which founders have, which personally evenI have seen.

Sri: Second is alsothe revenue pressure. It's like whether it's put comes through from the investoror even from a natural founders, like, okay, if I'm raised money and if I'mdoing this for six months or 12 months, I have to start showing some revenue.Yep. I have someone to answer to and other the same.

Sri: Yep. What arethe mistakes when, which happen when founders go to either on building or theproduct side or going to revenue too early?

Jen: Yep. Soregarding, in specifically in the US market, there's a lot of founders thatoverbuild their product and then come into the us mm-hmm. And what happens isyou go to market, the market cares about this.

Jen: All of a suddenyou show them this and they're like, well, this really isn't really, wasn'tbuilt for me. I'd only use this. That's not really worth $50,000. I'd probablyonly use a 10th of what you built. Now all of a sudden you have an overbuiltproduct, a market that you've identified the problem, but now they don't seethe value in what you built.

Jen: Cause it'soverbuilt. Mm-hmm. Right. And we see that a lot, right? Where the foundersspent way too much time building and now they're not even flexible because thisthing is so they, there's so much cost that went into it. So, One is when youcome into the US market, give yourself some level of flexibility.

Jen: Do notoverbuild, right? You can always build down the line, right? And the otherinteresting thing is early adopters do not want a fully baked solution. Okay?Like there's a misconception. The late majority want a fully baked solution.Early adopters do not. Like I've never met an early adopter that's like, yeah,I'd use all of this.

Jen: They're gonnawanna use a very small piece, gain an edge, and then widen from there. So, gotit. I, you know, we support founders all the time that have this robust, putmost of their funding into it. And then they come in and they're like, okay,let's go sell this for a hundred K. And I'm like, market would only use $10,000of value from this, and you can't charge them a hundred K just because youbuilt a overbuilt your product.

Jen: So then there'sthis mismatch. So that's one thing. The second is, you know, going to revenueearly. The other is with, with revenue. Revenue is a lagging indicator of yourunning a successful experiment. Mm-hmm. So if you focused on experimenting,you will get the revenue like you did. Right? Revenue, like revenue just doesnot appear because you have a solution to sell.

Jen: You have to bedoing all of the right steps throughout the entire funnel to end up getting itright, like that's the product. So like, are you able to inspire the MarketGate Check one. Does the market agree this is a problem? Gate check two, dothey wanna solve it today? Gate check three. Is there an actual budget or whoelse is involved in paying for this gate?

Jen: Check four. Who,what other solutions are are also out there to solve this similar to solve thisproblem? Gate check five. Do they believe you are the best solution out therefor their need? Gate check six. So like you get through all of those before youcan get to revenue. And yet so many people come into the US and are like, oh,we need to close, you know, half a million dollars in the next six months.

Jen: And I'm like,you can't time box that. Let alone, by the way, a hundred K is probably gonnabe a six to nine month sales cycle to begin with. So, and, and again, they'retaking inbound, this is another thing, founder's mistake. They take an inboundlead and they assume that that sales cycle is equivalent to every otherprospect.

Jen: An outbound leadand an inbound lead are so radically different. I'm speaking to the expert onthis, right? Mm-hmm. An outbound lead takes twice as long to close.

Sri: Yeah. Actually3x because three x what we have seen in inbound, it's like you see someone comeinto your website, sign up. Then it's the trial or a discussion before weactually get into a closure, which is like, yep.

Sri: Let's say ittakes two weeks. Yep. Outbound lead. When we have seen from the time when youactually reach out to them, to the time they come to your website, after that,to the time, then they sign up for even a demo. That itself is four weeks. Yep.And then another two weeks after that if it's going to happen.

Sri: So I'm justputting weeks as the thing, but it's actually three extra time at the minimum.

Jen: So, and again,when you come into the US all you have is outbound. You don't have brandequity. So they come here and they're like, oh, we need to close half a milliondollars in the next six months. And I'm like, but where is this?

Jen: Like where isthat insight? Like where is that misconception coming from? And I thinkhonestly, it is all rooted in where we were for the last two years.

Sri: Got it. How hasthings changed in the last years? Because one thing is of course, times havechanged. That's something like I mean when we go back we can talk about like,Pre pandemic, post pandemic, post post pandemic. Yeah. This like during the,after the post 0% interest rates, et cetera. Yeah. What has changed in themarket in terms of like, let's say you would've seen companies that should havereached, let's say, a million dollar run rate during the 2021. 2022 times.Yeah. But how does it change for companies who reach the same million dollarrevenue in this times?

Sri: Yep. So one,let's say for a startup starting now.

Jen: Yep. So one whenzero interest rates. We're a thing, you could throw money at everything, right?Throw it at 15 different experiments and see what works, right? Mm-hmm. Peopledon't have that, those resources anymore, so now you have to pick a very, youhave to be very specific on the experiments you're running, cuz there's a lotof leakage and just throwing money out there.

Jen: So that's one.So being extremely, extremely diligent on what, what angle you're taking to,to, to, to run this. Two is it wasn't that impossible to growth. Hack half amillion in arr, right? Get your buddies to use it, get your friends to use it.Get the startups, you know, to use it. Yeah. sure, three 15 K, what does thatmatter?

Jen: I'll show you.10. All of a sudden that's gone, right? So you can't growth hack your way to 50k, $50,000 of ARR anymore. Like it needs to be real money. And also VCs have smartenedup to that. And now looking about how you got there, what you know, where didthese leads come from? Who are these customers? How did you source them? Andthe other is like, employees are not empowered right now to go out and just buytools, right? So product-led growth has now taken a hit with that, right? Usersare not just allowed to just go out and just throw something on their creditcard anymore. Everything is being audited.

Jen: So unless you'reproviding extremely clear specific value as to like how you're gonna make themdo their jobs better, it is much harder, let alone with all of the AI buzzgoing on to get people to, you know, just use your product. And also we'reseeing people go from users, like you can get away with a bunch of users, nowyou need buyers.

Jen: Right. So likeconverting, going from users to buyers, PG to

Sri: the actual phasemotion.

Jen: Yeah. Pre-opproduct-led growth to product-led sales. Exactly. Whatever product led sales

Sri: means. But yes,a little diversion. But since you mentioned it and since you. Come from thesales world and you come from the bound sales world, which is basically totalcold call, but to the right ideal customer profile.

Sri: Yep. And thenexplaining the product problem and then taking them into the bank cycle, whichis that compared to the PLG version of it how does, how does PLG plus theoutbound sales both live together, or what is your opinion about PLG Plus inthis current

Jen: times? Yeah, soThere's a lot of founders that wanted to do PLG because it was what was likethe flavor of the month, right?

Jen: Like you don'tchoose your go-to market. No, you don't choose your go-to market. Yourcustomers actually choose what you end up doing, right? So that's one. And wesee a lot of companies that have deployed a product-led growth motion cuzthat's what they wanted to deploy because they were allergic to sales.

Jen: But that's nothow their customers buy. They're not in search, right? Like they don't evenknow if this is a problem yet. Also like it takes time, like this idea oforganic growth of like, okay, if I get one of these people on, they'll invitefive more of their teammates. Right? You need approvals for that now.

Jen: Like buyers,like your manager has to approve like team Y tools now. Like that's a thing.Like people aren't just like deploying, you know, also ask solutions, you know,cuz it's a frenzy. Like you need to have, be solving something very specific.So. And sometimes it's just too late. Like you wanna do product led sales andyou have nine months of runway.

Jen: Like that takestime to build. Like I said, to get to product market fit, you're thinking liketwo years. So to try and switch on a dime as a last resort like that alsodoesn't work. Nice.

Sri: Actually twodifferent points from both the conversations. One in the first set where yousaid about like, companies in the earlier stages can get, let's say couple oftheir friends and known community people and others, like 20 companies, 15 K,annual contract, 300 ku are getting into a certain amount of momentum, and VCsalso see that momentum and then maybe pouring in money.

Sri: That's somethingjust gone out of, well now. Second is also, which is like maybe in earlieststages, companies might be of approval saying that, okay, I see 10 people usingthe product in my company. Let's buy a team plan. Do. Yeah, $500 a month or athousand dollars a month. And that shows that PLG kind of growth and peoplesaying that, oh, we don't need marketing here.

Sri: We don't needany kind of outbound salespeople. If people come and use it, eventually they'llbecome customers. That kind of equation. But both of those things are nowgetting strained because the markets are changed. Like nobody's approving ateam plan unless another, it's really, really needed. Second, nobody's even ifit's friends, nobody's going to buy because, just because they're a friend,because they're going to, they also don't have runway to just buy.

Sri: Yep. Which isthat. But both these two things Come to the next set of a problem, which anyfounder would have. Cause if I'm starting off as a founder now the first set ofcustomers, or even the people who I'll get as design partners would be eitherfrom my friends or people who are, I can know from my investor portfoliocompanies, which is there, or like it can be something like a PG kind ofmotion.

Sri: And both thesethings are out of the way. How do I get my first set of paying customers? Howdo I make sure that they are paying customers if I'm early stage founder?

Jen: Yep. So, Youabsolutely can start with like your warm network, right? But you gotta becareful learning from them because if they're not truly your ideal customers,like mm-hmm.

Jen: How manypeople's warm network is truly their ideal customer? Yeah. Right? Like ifyou're, if you're, if you're the exception to the rule, like amazing, like gofor it. But most people, their friends doing them a favor are not their actualideal customers. So, like, I. Just be like very aware of that and just honestwith yourself.

Jen: And if that istrue, if they're willing to be a design partner, but they're may be adjacent tothe icp, they're not really part of the icp, then take their feedback verylightly. But you still need that proper feedback from the right group. So likego out and see if the market's even inspired to be a design partner, right?

Jen: Like there arepeople that wanna do that if the problem is real, if it's a. Hell yeah. I needto solve for this. Getting a design partner is not gonna be impossible. Theproblem is, is people are taking ideas, trying to build a go to market aroundit, and they are meh problems. They're like, yeah, okay, I get it.

Jen: But like thatresponse I, that is a response. That is an answer. That is, they're in like amambiguity about really the passion there. You don't get a product market fitbased off of a market of ambiguity.

Sri: So does it makesense to say like, don't. Unless in otherwise you're doing colds, outbound, orfinding your even design partners, your alpha partners or any, even the firstcustomer who's willing to pay for you, don't get anyone on onboard unlessotherwise they are cold.

Sri: Is that would bethe right thing to say?

Jen: No, I mean, theyjust have to be your icp. If you're trying to get design partners that are notin your I C P, like that's a mm-hmm. Beware. That's all.

Sri: That's it. Okay.So just be very, very careful on how you onboard the particular client, whetherthey're actually needing the product, who you learn from and other the same.

Sri: So now let's sayas an early stage customer, we have done the experiment, we have iteratedtowards this, and then we have also gone into the next stage where we havebuilt a product for that particular, the same. That also comes to the nextstage of your sales process also, which you also consult on.

Sri: So what do youdo after that? Because before you hire an ae founders make a lot of mistakes. Imean, I have known, personally known at least 10 founders who have let go oftheir first ace and this is like 10 on 10. It's not even like eight of the 10did. The other two actually handled it and doesn't.

Sri: Otherwise it's avery close best buddy who couldn't be a co-founder, but he just became thefirst AE or something like that. Yeah. They have let go of thees. They have notmanaged to find the right hire in this. What is the next stage, which you dowhen you actually bring in your first non founder salesperson?

Sri: Yeah. What doyou do before that? So

Jen: it goes founderled sales, which is what we're talking about to founder led management. You arestill deeply involved. You need to make sure that the non founder is successfulbecause if it's not, it's on you. Right? So founder led sales when, when thefirst sales hire fails, it's never the salesperson's fault.

Jen: The foundereither hired them too soon, never gave them a process, or didn't manage them.Right. So those are the three, and I always say, yes, founder led sales, andyou exit that around, you know, around a million at a r r as a mental model,you're founder led managing until 3 million a r in the us, right? So if you thinkthat a AE is going to be successful by themselves, you will be fooled.

Jen: Right. They needjust as much management, just as much handholding, just as much process, justas much rigor. In fact, you're probably gonna still be involved in almost everycall, right? Okay. But your job is to start to start to take one step back. Ifthey're good, take another step back. If they're good, take another step back.

Jen: Like your job isnot to just delegate and let them take it over. Your job is to still manage theentire process. So that's interesting.

Sri: Okay. I mean Imean, since we work with other B2B SaaS companies, we have seen many companiesmove from 500 K to 1 million to 2 million and other thing. And then that'swhen, like, let's say, when they just cross a million over is when the foundersays that I have to hire a bpc.

Sri: Or couple of AEsin us, and I have to move to us. I'm coming from India, let's say from India tous, that kind of a movement, which happens and but how does it what I wasn'table to understand fully is like how does it, it's never the salesperson's problem,it's only the founder's problem, right.

Sri: Most of thecases, because it's like a founder feels like if the product sells for morethan a million dollars. Yep. It's at least with, let's say if it's an average,a CV of 20 Ks at least 50 customers known proper paying customers in your I CP. Totally cold, either who've come from inbound. There is a huge inboundfunnel.

Sri: I also seepipeline for another half a million or even a 1 million. Yep. Cause time takenfor me to the first million versus the next million is going to be almost halfor less than half. Yeah. Which is that. So he feels very, very confident thatanyone who has a sales experience in into the, into this industry should beable to do it.

Sri: But where doesit go wrong? I mean, where am I getting

Jen: this wrong? Yes.So where it goes wrong is I think the last two years, which is where it waslike, go out and hire a sales team. Do it quickly. Like those are gone. Likeeveryone needs to be extremely methodical and run a math model to understandwhen to hire.

Jen: So first is canyou even feed them? Like are they, is there so much work that the founder isdropping deals because there's so much in demand? Great. Now you know you'reready to hire someone, right? Is the, are they able to feed themselves? Mm-hmm.Okay. Are they dropping deals cuz they're so booked? Great.

Jen: Now you need tohire another one. So like it again, it's just a math equation that was thrownout the window. In fact, product market fit was thrown out the window in the lasttwo years of this you know, investing momentum, investing cycle. Yes. So Iwould say like what was done in the last two years is completely the wrong wayto do it Now.

Jen: Right. You needto hire slow, right? Mm-hmm. You need to make sure that everything is beingmethodical, that there is a rationale to every decision you are making, right?That they are able to hit quota based off of the price you're, you know, youknow, in the, in the early days it's hard cuz you're still building the machineso, you know, they might return maybe two x there.

Jen: Ot two x theircost, cost. By the time you are, you know, into your Series A, into series B,they should be returning five X their cost. Right. That's like the, that's likethe holy grail of gender sales hiring. Yes. But, you know it all comes down tothe feast. Do you have? Like, is there enough food to go around?

Jen: Are they able todo it? Is the process working? Is the founders still deeply involved? As soonas you have three or four people that are being successful, now you're ready tohire a VP of sales. Okay, got VP of sales. Truly comes in between series A andseries B. Okay. Right. And so many people hired a VP of sales at the seedstage, which makes no sense to me.

Jen: But who arethey? Who are they? Who are they vp? Like who are they? Who are they managing?

Sri: And is it evenwhen you hire a vp sales, I think you made a slight point where like what youwould suggest is like, hire a couple of As, or start with one A or two A, seewhether they're able to get enough deals and then they're dropping and thenhire the vp or is it vice

Jen: versa?

Jen: Yes. Two AEscan't be successful. A VP of sales is not gonna do anything for you. A VP ofsales is there to build and manage a team. If you can't get two AEs being fedand being successful in the role, then there's something else that's broken.Got it.

Sri: Yeah. And how doyou hire a good A, that's something which most of the founders also go through,like in US as a market to be successful.

Sri: What are thebest characteristics of an ee?

Jen: Yeah, so itdepends on what the go to market motion is. Is it an education led sale? Is ita transactional sale? Is it a $30,000 deal? Is it $150,000 deal? So there issome nuance in terms of what type of hire to make based off of those inputs. Ialways suggest I go, I say, listen, you want to poach, right?

Jen: Like, the bestsalespeople are not on in, on the market, right? Like mm-hmm. They are makingso much money elsewhere and that's the type of person you want. You alsoprobably wanna take that person where they're want, they've been in the role,they've probably been a first sales hire elsewhere, right?

Jen: Maybe they'vebeen in the role for two or three years and like what they love aboutnavigating ambiguity, maybe it's more process oriented now, and now could be agood time to poach them. So I'm probably one step ahead of where the startup isright now. Never ever hire. Anyone late stage or at a mature organization, ifyou are in the early days, it's like oil and water.

Sri: So it's likelook for hungry people or look for people who are doing exceptionally well. Andalso look for ambiguities, ambiguity, navigation, which is there. Any interviewtraits, any specific questions that you ask from interviews or something thatyou do?

Jen: Why do you wannajoin an early stage company?

Jen: Anyone shouldbe. There's so there's so much unknown. Like, what, what do they say? Likethat's usually very telling. And then the other piece is where do you wannatake your sales crew? Do you wanna be an IC or do you wanna go be a VP of salesand manage? Right. And they say, VP of sales and manage. I always am like, Ugh.

Jen: You want someonethat's a true IC and loves the sales work being an

Sri: yes. Okay.That's interesting. One other thing. Well, I mean before we, the last set oftechnical questions, which we ask is like, Where does marketing come into playfrom a seed stage company to the series A and how does the marketing and salesteam interact?

Sri: So, yep. Giventhat you would've

Jen: worked with,yep. So there's, there's two types of ways to think about it, right? Are you asales led go to market, or are you a marketing led go to market, right?. Andthat comes down to the size of the deal, who you're selling to, and just themarket maturity around the problems you're solving, right?

Jen: So, Irrespectiveif you're sales led, marketing led, product led, let's just like take a stepback cuz some people don't even know just yet. . Can you, as the founder,inspire the market to a conversation and can you understand what they'refacing? Mm-hmm. Nothing else matters unless you're able to do that.

Jen: Then thequestion becomes is, okay, based off of this insight, are we selling somethingthat they're very well of aware of? Are we selling something that they'reactively in search for? Are we selling something that they have experience inand they've tried to solve this? Right? And do we have a budget to truly marketto them in a way that's gonna fuel our our business model?

Jen: Market marketingis great once you've isolated the very specific problems you're solving and howdo inspire them and understanding where they are. So many people wanna go outand market, but they don't even understand where their ideal customers are orwhat they read, where they, what conferences they go to how they engage, whattype of content they wanna engage with.

Jen: So I always sayfounder led sales comes before any other, before anything else. So if you can'tget founder led sales, right, like I. Doesn't matter if you're gonna be salesleader or marketing led. That's the first chapter.

Sri: So once thefounder is clear on what to do, then later, both from a marketing angle andfrom a sales angle, all other things fall in place.

Sri: Yes, correct. Iswhat you would see. Yeah. In this thing. Is there any what are the, kind oflike you also talked about, like when you hire a salesperson or when you workwith the market, or even whether how you invest in marketing or not depends onthe size of the deal. Yep. So that's like let's say if I put it in two bucketsdeals, which are like 20 K and 15 to 25 K average, which is that, and dealswhich are like, let's say one 50 K to 200 K.

Sri: Yep. What arethe differences? Because of course, obviously one is the deals cycle, but whatother things change in terms as a company, as a process? Yep.

Jen: So I think oneis just the maturity around the problem. If they're still need to be educatedon it, they're not in search for it, so marketing's not gonna really mm-hmm.

Jen: You know, youneed someone to educate them. Also price is dictated on the effort it takes toclose these deals, right? Like if it takes two, if it takes a salesperson andsomeone navigating procurement, you've gotta sell it greater than a $50,000deal, right? If you're able to get them signed up in two calls right?

Jen: And it's muchmore of a transactional sale. Like marketing's probably gonna play a muchbigger role than sales, right? So it just depends on like where the market is and.The effort it takes to get these deals done. Like you can't build a 500 personsales org on a 200, a $1,200 a year sale unless your velocity is like thousandsa day.

Jen: Right? Andthat's okay that then that works. But like that means you need that inbound tofuel that cuz no one's going outbound to 1200 companies a day. So it alsodepends on the velocity you need. So marketing and sales I think are likecounterbalances. One of them is always leading. Are you a marketing ledbusiness, which is like product led, community led, marketing led, or are youtruly a sales human intervention led business.

Sri: Got it. And thehuman intervention part, or the amount of human intervention is what That wouldchange your

Jen: Yeah. And thensales is leading. Yes. There's always one. You never have a marketing and asales led organization, they would be in conflict with each other.

Sri: That's good.Jen, this has been. A whole lot of things to consume, even for me personally,because as we were talking, I started I mean, it went beyond my research aswell, so it, I started thinking like, oh, did I look into this?

Sri: Or is thissomething that I need to go back? And I think this would be a huge amount ofthings to consume for some of our viewers as well. And well,

Jen: sorry, I, I'm sopassionate about this, so I apologize if I went too, too far deep.

Sri: No, no, no. Itwas very area exciting and I think the nuggets of wisdom actually comes as youmentioned, like when you go deep and there is this wedge and maybe that's whatwould make or break a good conversation itself in this kind for people toinvest in away from the serious questions.

Sri: Yeah. And littlemore the last set of questions. What are the kind of SaaS companies or startupswhich you admire, which you have worked with in the past or even not workedwith in the past, in the last couple of years that you see? Like they wentthrough the whole right from the time of designing the instrument, right?

Sri: From the time ofasking the right questions. Right from the time of. Starting to scale up andthen build up on the thing. Yeah, they did it right Or they almost, of courseit can be a second or third time founder as well. But what were the, whichother kind of SaaS companies, if you can share, which you Yeah.

Sri: Really like sothat we can also see whether we can copy the playbooks.

Jen: Big fan ofAtlan. She was our first Indian startup that we worked with. Just superrigorous, super methodical. There was no guessing or throwing anything. It waslike very like process driven. She's remarkable and is just building a greatbrand for herself as well.

Jen: Personal andbusiness brand. So Atlan is one that I think has done a great job. Again, superdeep product. Mm-hmm. That they've made very easy to understand, right? Like,yeah.

Sri: Actually, yes.When I spoke to Alpa also, she was one of the reasons what I asked her, likewhat she got of the J jellyfish assignment.

Sri: She was like,oh, we invalidated that. B F S A doesn't work for us, so we have to go out ofbs, B F S A. Yeah. And this thing. And that really helped us. And that wassomething like, it was like, oh, is it, oh, that's all, you didn't get anydeals or something of the thought. But it makes a lot of sense now after acouple of years, why, why something like that is so important.


Jen: And also shebega, but I think as a second or third time founder, she knew the importance ofquestioning versus going out and pretending to know. And that's rare. You don'tget that all the time. So Alan is definitely one of them because sheunderstands what it takes to get to product market fit, the time it takes, howhard it is, like, like she's a great I think a great example other.

Jen: Folks. Somefolks are just not, like, not far enough along yet. Like it's still kind ofvery early days. I'm just trying to think of other a company called Pursuit.They're in the legal tech space. Yes. They're pretty well known at this point.Australia based. Australia based, yep. Again, like came in with a very verti,like he was a lawyer.

Jen: He understoodhis market so well and understood like problems and, and just going super deepthere. And owns one very, very specific part of the value chain. Mm-hmm. Didn'tgo here, went here day one. Right. So, just very specific in terms of theproblems they're solving. So like those two, again, it all came, come, camedown to specificity, invalidating their own vision, getting out of their own a,removing their own bias, and really, really listening to the market.

Sri: Excellent. AndAlso since you work with a lot of India based companies as well, because, and Imean, we are 20% of the world's population, maybe 30, 40% of the world's SaaScompanies. So there would be a lot of Indian SaaS companies which are trying tobreak into the US market. What are the kind of biases they come with, and thenormal set of biases they come with, which they needn't have which is there,and also what are the things which what are the kind of key mistakes which theydo, so that when we chat to the audience also we can just talk about that.

Jen: So there's threebig ones. One is they think the US market moves at some crazy speed, right?They're like, oh, we need to close this deal in three to six months. Like atrue enterprise deals takes nine to 12 months, right? Like truly. The second isjust the headwinds they're gonna face, not being a US known brand equitybusiness.

Jen: Mm-hmm. Likethere, there are hundreds of thousands of alternatives out there. They are nodifferent than anyone else. And they don't come in with this level ofspecificity and rigor because they're unique in their local market, but whenthey come into the US there's 50 companies doing something similar, right?

Jen: So just likethat lack of the importance of being specific, they usually miss. And then thethird is they move here. Without really validating anything. And thenwandering, they put down their suitcase in San Francisco and just wander aroundmeeting to meeting and then

Sri: they come. Sothat's something I have to tell my fellow founders in India, like, don't do allthese three things for sure.

Sri: And yeah, comeback on this. How much has is it like one other thing, which also one bias? I'mnot sure whether it's a bias or whether it's a fact. Do Founders in India saythat, okay, we won't be able to sell in US unless and otherwise we have a USsalesperson. Yep. As an Indian, you can't be able to sell.

Sri: Is that true or

Jen: is that No,that's not true. Because a founder should be able to inspire and excite themarket more than, I don't care if you're US or India based, like a founder, isa very coveted conversation that people are excited to learn from. Like, youknow, something, I don't know. I wanna learn from you.

Jen: Right. Andfounder led selling is a competitive advantage that people don't take advantageof. Okay. Hold onto it as long as you re responsibly can.

Sri: Got it. Last twoquestions. Absolutely. Last two questions. One is like, what are the kind ofeither sales podcasts or early stage conversations or even books which youwould recommend founders to read

Jen: before?

Jen: Yeah. Love themom test. I can't recommend that book enough. That's all about like removingbias, both from what you're hearing and what you're saying. Founder led salesby Pete Ksky, I think I'm pronouncing his name, pron. It talks through all ofthe, the methodologies we're talking to. It's a great book.

Jen: Casts trying tothink. I don't know if I listened to any sales podcasts. I try and listen tothings that are outside of that, just to learn other ways of thinking. Like Ilove I invest like the best, which is I'm blanking on his name, but it's agreat podcast where he interviews business owners about like business modelsand like the ways they're innovating and that's really interesting.

Jen: He interviewedhe's interviewed some really impressive folks in the tech space. What else do Ilove and listen to? Everything else kind of says, it's like everything. Onestarts to sound the same, you know? Yes. But those two books I can't recommendhigh enough. And then Steve Blank, of course, like reading his blog posts andPaula Graham's blog posts, right?

Jen: The, they arethe experts of like what it really takes to build a business. They didn't buildthis vision in the last two years. They've been building this for decades. Andlike those, those things hold true.

Sri: Yeah, that'sgreat. I mean, that's quite a handful for us to also even go back and check itup.

Sri: And the thing.Lastly, where do we find you, which is the best


Jen: to find you? Iam super responsive on Twitter. I absolutely love that platform. So my dms areopen. That's where I mostly mostly engaged and where I spend most of my time.But I'm not obviously working.

Sri: Working. Yeah.That's great.

Sri: Thanks. Thanks.Thanks a lot Jen, for awesome. All this. It was great talking to you. Andhopefully meet you in person next time when you are in India or when we come tous. I would love that. Awesome. All right my friends. Thanks. Bye bye. A lot.Bye.