Interview By Glen Emerson Morris, Tech Front Columnist
Every now and then I find a general business service that could be especially useful to the advertising industry. Swarmsales falls into that category. Very few industries have as high a turnover in sales positions as the advertising industry, and Swarmsales’ new method of freelance staffing is exactly the kind of service ad agencies need. Swarmsales does it differently from traditional placement agencies like in several major ways; they specialize in staffing sales positions only so they actually understand the job, they’re online only so they can offer talent from all over the country, and they focus heavily on the connections a sales pro has, which is exactly what an advertising agency is concerned about the most. We spoke with Swarmsales CEO and co-founder Ankur Srivastava to discover ways Swarmsales can help keep your ad agency’s sales department fully staffed and profitable.
GM| What motivated you to start Swarmsales?
AS| Watching other founders that were building these amazing companies and were able to never get to their target clients. It was the hardest thing to watch a founder shut down his or her company just because they weren’t able to attract the right sales organization or sales people to work with them to get them into a target account. Swarmsales was initially designed to help these founders leverage a much more cost effect model to be able to break into their target account and then scale their sales very quickly.
Another inspiration was thinking from a sales professionals perspective. Sales reps go out and build relationships and those relationships were treated as disposable. So, at some point you realize that all of the clients you’ve sold to in the past, those clients trusted you, they liked you, and now you’re no longer there after selling the product. I wanted to build something that allowed sales professionals to continue working with those clients over and over and promote that as the incredible benefit it is.
GM| What is Swarmsales’ purpose?
AS| It is very simple. It is to allow companies the ability to tap into top tier sales professional’s time and relationships, and lease them on a per account basis. Sales had not been changed for years, and we wanted to introduce a better, faster, newer methodology that allowed the two to converge and essentially achieve the end goal of increasing revenue faster.
We allow companies the ability to tap into top tier sales professional’s time and relationships, and lease them on a per account basis.
GM| Explain how your system works.
AS| Companies come in, very quickly create their profile, and identify their products. In the products they’ll then put content for the sales professionals to consume. These could be things like YouTube videos, case studies, battle cards, you could create courses where the sales professionals could take tests. Then you create a campaign. The campaign is simply designed for you as a company to identify what target accounts, geography, or verticals you’re going after. And once you launch that campaign you’ll specify in that campaign what commissions rate is that you want to offer for that campaign, and you launch it, you will start matching sales professionals instantly.
At that point, those sales professionals will match based on their relationships and their prior experience, and they’ll be able to submit to you an opportunity. When that opportunity comes in you’ll be able to review that salesperson’s background, you’ll see what the types of transactions they’ve closed, you’ll be able to see what their experience is, and you’ll be able to have a conversation with them. Once you accept that opportunity from the sales professional you’re then off to the races to sell.
Once you accept the opportunity Swarmsales will introduce four milestones: introduction, demo, pilot, and close. And as a sales professional completes each milestone successfully they’ll be able to collect a fee, and if they close the deal they’ll collect a commission.
We’ve gotten companies opportunities and engagements with sales professionals in less than 12 hours.
GM| How easy is it for a client to use?
AS| It is extremely intuitive, and today we have companies that jump on the marketplace, create a profile, hit the campaign button and have opportunities that come in right away. We’ve gotten companies opportunities and engagements with sales professionals in less than 12 hours. Sometimes it can take from one to two weeks.
In only takes an hour or two to learn.
GM| What size agencies does your service target? Is it something a small ad agency could use as well?
AS| Today we are focused on everywhere from small to mid-sized companies to large enterprises as well. To give you an example, today on Swarmsales we have companies that have just raised their first seed round to the likes of ATT, so the platform is really designed to be versatile across all profiles and as long as you know your target markets really fast, or really well, you’ll be able to be really successful on the marketplace.
GM| Could you name some of your clients?
AS| We have a slew of smaller companies using our platform. These are companies like On Second Thought, Bolux, Biproxy, a lot of emerging technology, and we also have the likes of ATT on the marketplace.
GM| What does it cost?
AS| Today we have a subscription model. It costs companies for the basic plan $1000 a month, for the advanced plan $2500 a month, and for the enterprise plan, which allows you to integrate with your CRM and your marketing automation systems, is $3500 a month.
GM| Could you explain how the three levels of service work, and how they differ?
AS| The differentiator between those plans is this:
The basic plan allows you to have the four milestones previously mentioned introduction, demo, pilot, and close. The basic plan also allows you to attract sales professionals from a designated city, and there’s no integration available with your CRM or automated marketing.
The second plan allows you to have customized milestones, so today where it’s introduction, demo, pilot, and close, your milestones are maybe introduction and demo are one, but you may not have a pilot or a PoC, you may just have a trial or a simple use case where they close right after that. So companies are able to adapt the milestones to their sales cycles. So that adaptability is there. You can also adjust the pricing for each one of those milestones. And the other big thing is we actually give you 15 cities where you can attract sales professionals from and get started.
The last plan is $3500 because we’re syncing your data with your CRM and marketing automation system.
GM| Could you explain how the milestones feature works?
AS| The milestone features are very simple. The milestones are designed so that a sales rep simply says I can get you an introduction within a particular day or time frame. We track how quickly they can get those introductions completed, and once completed they’re able to say milestone completed and request payment for those milestones. As soon as the company approves it the payment is released and it hits your bank account within 24 to 48 hours. Very quickly.
GM| What type of sales people are you looking for? Is it always a 1099 contract?
AS| Yes. Today we are a free lance marketplace so we are looking for independent sales firms and individuals that can get started very quickly, but the relationship we will always have with that individual or firm is the relationship of a consultant on the marketplace.
GM| Do you vet applicants, or do you let the client do the vetting?
AS| Swarmsales is a closed marketplace. The reason why we’re a closed marketplace is we realize that there could be a lot of bad data that happens or bad engagements that happen if you just open it up. In our case, because companies are providing us with critical data about their sales cycle, we had to be a closed marketplace. What that means is that when sales professionals apply, every one of them is vetted on our marketplace. They go through a first round of interviews to be approved. Once they are approved, then we expose them to the company that will be the most closest fit for their skill set, and allow the company to engage in a conversation with the sales rep. Once the company approves the sales professional, then we work with them to enroll them in Swarmsales and then leverage the Swarmsales milestone process to cover many engagements.
GM| Do you pay the sales representatives directly or does the client?
AS| At all times the clients are paying the sales professionals. They’re paid through the milestones process, and once the deal is closed, the commission.
GM| How many different Swarmsales clients can a salesperson work for at once? Can a client tell how many other Swarmsales clients the salesperson is working for, and who they are?
AS| We don’t really limit how many engagements a sales professionals can take on. We find that the sales professionals are extremely selective with the companies they pick because at the end of the day if you’re bringing your professional relationships to the table you want to validate that you have the right companies going after them. What we find is that initially sales professionals will engage with anywhere from 3 to 5 companies on the marketplace. However, as they build their confidence and start identifying more and more solutions that they’re working with, that number could increase. There are certain sales professionals that just take a liking to one particular company and will continue to work with that company over and over. So we’re not here to discourage any of that behavior, but we will try to match you with companies that augment that solution so you can continue to increase your opportunity to earn in the marketplace.
Today a client cannot tell how many engagements or additional companies sales professional may be working with. Also they cannot tell who they are working for in the marketplace unless the sales professional decides to disclose that information.
GM| What platforms will the Swarmsales dashboard run on? Will it work on tablets and smart phones?
AS| Today we have deliberately not launched a mobile strategy because we have to be very selective with what features are applicable to the mobile versus the desktop. However in the near future, we will be launching an app available on tablets as well as on mobile phones. Today Swarmsales is available and tends to work really well if you’re using a traditional Android tablet or Android phone. I believe on Windows devices we tend to do pretty well as is.
GM| What are your plans for growing the company in 2018?
AS| We’re using the power of all the sales professionals in the marketplace to drive our engagements. We will be focusing on introducing other feature sets where sales professionals can create direct quotes. I talked about the LMS solutions. We’ll be doing more learning engagements. Additionally, we will focus on getting more enterprise clients.
We’ve got a lot of queries if we can make our marketplace available as a white label solution. We’ve not explored that yet, but we will look into it. And that’s where we are today.
Name: Glen Emerson Morris