One of the biggest problems startups face in getting to market is hiring a competent sales team. There’s a shockingly high turnover rate and a bad sales hire can cost a company upward of $2 million. Part of the problem is that founders often delegate sales too early on, before there’s any brand equity or referenceability that a sales team can rely on. In other words, it’s setting up salespeople to fail.
Building an effective sales strategy is hard, manual work. JJELLYFISH (pronounced jelly-fish) takes the load off by providing sales expertise and execution to global founders who want to conquer the U.S. market. Partnering with the founder, they design and validate the entire sales process to ensure it results in repeatable success.
Companies get a dedicated team that helps them go from zero to one million in revenue by validating the U.S. market and acquiring those early-adopting customers. Along the way, JJELLYFISH helps founders avoid costly mistakes. After their engagement with JJELLYFISH, the company will be in a position to hire their own strong, full-time sales team.
Helping Founders Become Sales-Centric
JJELLYFISH was founded in 2016 by Jen Abel and Justin Lawson, who met each other at their previous workplace. They decided to take all their sales knowledge and help other companies through the uncertainty of bringing a product to market in the U.S. Jen says, “Most founders are technical and engineering-centric. So we said, ‘Why can’t there be a model where a founder gets paired with a commercial co-pilot to help them navigate this ambiguity?’”
A sales hire at early-stage companies isn’t simply selling. They are helping to build the business, working cross-departmentally with product and marketing to get things off the ground. Jen says, “I’ve been that first salesperson at early-stage companies. Nothing excites me more than navigating the ambiguity of early sales. I’ve always had a passion for figuring it out and making it happen.”
Jen and Justin knew there was a need for this early-stage sales expertise, helping founders find the pulse of the market and acquire those first customers. Jen says, “Finding the right salesperson who knows how to go from zero to one is near impossible. Let alone, having the founder do everything themselves. They can’t afford to spend a year or two figuring it out.”
As consultants, Jen and Justin wanted to help four or five companies a year learn how to go to market, doing all the manual work themselves. The goal was to help businesses collect real evidence to validate their product-market fit that didn’t rely on a biased perspective. “Instead of the rose-colored-glasses look that the company is trying to sell, we wanted to bring back the real reasons why a certain market will or will not buy,” Jen shares.
Setting Clear Goals For The First Year
How did the founders get their consultancy off the ground? Jen says, “We started off with a direct sales strategy, which is what we knew best. I would reach out cold to founders and show them what problems we solve. Every single organization has a challenge with sales. No one ever doesn’t have a sales problem.”
When launching the business, they had two very specific goals: “One, get a case study and make that client a referenceable customer. We knew that’s the proof we needed to get more clients. Two, find out where the problem of early-stage sales is repeatable and how we can sell it to different founders over and over again.”
Alongside those goals, Jen and Justin knew they wanted to build their business via word of mouth. Jen says, “For that to work, every founder’s experience with us needed to exceed their expectations. That way, we would be getting, on average, another three opportunities because those founders would talk to their friends. And sure enough, it worked! We’ve built our business based on a super-high bar of quality and have never let a founder down.”
But with a ton of sales consultancies out there, what made JJELLYFISH different? Jen says that most sales consultancies say they do everything. “We do one thing and we do that thing really well: taking companies from zero to one million in the US market. We train founders on how to go through that process. That’s it. We don’t do anything else.”
Transforming into a Scalable Business
JJELLYFISH started as a consultancy with a one-to-one customized program for each business. “But there was nothing scalable about that,” Jen says. “So, once we understood the common problems and consistent themes that kept popping up for each founder, we decided it was time to productize what we learned on the consulting side and move towards a repeatable engagement motion.”
As repeatability comes before scale, it was critical to prove the model could be replicated no matter which person or team was running a client engagement. They invested in developing not just a productized service externally, but also internal technology that would enable their team to increase productivity while driving consistent results for clients.
Jen says, “We wanted to actively invest in removing all the manual, repetitive tasks from the consultant’s plate, because their time is best spent on the things that you can’t scale, like unearthing unique insights and running one-to-one assumption-led discussions with early-adopters.”
To scale team members’ time, JJELLYFISH designed and deployed over 100 workflow automations by integrating many of their SaaS and web applications – currently completing over 500,000 tasks every quarter and saving hundreds of hours.
“To start, we looked across two areas of task optimization (i) high time / high frequency and (ii) low time / high frequency. From there, we began standardizing everything from team training, external reporting, document/presentation generation, project management processes, and even made parts of our model self-service for clients,” Justin says.
Rather than a completely personalized program, JJELLYFISH now has a scientific process that can be applied to each and every founder. “Founders don’t know what they need. We know exactly what they need. We’ll help them avoid expensive mistakes and apply the most effective ways to bring products to market,” Jen says.
By adapting the business (and always exceeding expectations), the company has been able to grow its customer base exponentially. During their first year of business, they had five customers; in their second year, they had ten customers, in the third year, 20 customers. Now JJELLYFISH serves over 50 customers a year and they’ve quadrupled their revenue in the last two years.
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