This post has been a long time coming. When we think of building a remote team, we often think of hiring designers, marketers, and developers.
We rarely, if ever, think of sales as a business function that can be scaled remotely – especially for those of us in the software industry.
Today, I want to share with you the story about how a customer support software called FreshDesk used a remote sales team to not only get in touch with us, but also get us as a client.
If you’ve ever tried doing so, then you know that switching from one software company to another is really difficult (which is why it’s so difficult to acquire competitors customers and in my opinion not worth the time) so our move wasn’t instantaneous and we had to be convinced of the software before making the switch.
Our movement from Zendesk to Freshdesk was over six months and I’m going to bring you through how they reached out to us, showed us their value proposition, their sales process and why we ended up going with them.
I will also show you a breakdown of how I think organizations like them are using remote working to successfully run an attrition campaign on competitors and the only things incumbents can do to combat that.
How FreshDesk managed to get my attention (August 2014)
I get over 100 emails a day from people that want something from us. People ask if they could write guest posts for us, integrate with us, partner with us, and yes, sell their products and services to us.
The last category has a very VERY low hit rate with me. I’d say I might respond to 1 out of every 500 pitches I get through a cold email.
Preethie from Freshdesk was one of those 1 in 500, I’m going to show you why.
Here is the email:
Subject: Personal note to Liam from a Follower
First of all, a big congratulations on your awesome idea! The uniqueness of your concept and service is inspiring. I remember using Timedoctor to see how I prepared for my exam, after seeing my father use it for his company. I loved it! My best wishes to your team.
Just as Timedoctor, simplicity & ease is our strength at Freshdesk. We enable you to engage with your customers through multiple support channels such as email, chat, widget, forums, phone & more under a single platform. Freshdesk helps you manage inquires using advanced features such as canned responses, bulk handling of emails, converting Twitter and Facebook inquiries into tickets, Holiday auto replies, customer satisfaction surveys and a lot more!
Liam, could you please connect me to your Support Head. I’d love to discuss and show the Freshdesk value-add.
Eagerly looking forward to hearing from you.
So, why did I (eventually) respond to this email?
- The title has my name in it, that automatically grabs my attention.
- The first paragraph is about her personal experience using time doctor and that her father’s company uses Time Doctor as well (I confirmed this to be true, so again this gives this email legitimacy).
- The image is obviously an image she took once and just edited but it’s hilarious and put her above all the other cold pitches in my inbox.
- By using the app www.builtwith.com, Preethie and her team discovered that we were currently using Zendesk as our customer support software. Once they knew that, they defined their value proposition in a way that shows why we should switch.
- She had a great follow up email sequence that was fun and lighthearted and compelled me to respond.
It’s rare to have people take the time to actually write out a personalized email even though it literally takes 10 minutes.
At this point I wasn’t so interested in FreshDesk as much as I was interested in how this email campaign was doing and whether we could implement the same strategy within our company.
After a few weeks of gentle and lighthearted followups by Preethie, I responded with the following email two weeks later:
Preethie, I love your sequence. Not really interested in Freshdesk but your sequence was amazing. How much success have you found with it?
Thank you for your kind words.
As far as the sequence of mail is concerned, I do not really have a hard & fast rule and it’s been fairly successful. I am just experimenting with every new way possible.
I understand you are using Zendesk at present, but if you could give me ten minutes of your time, I’d be grateful. I would love to give you a quick demo with a hope to get your interest. Could you please spare few minutes of your time?
Looking forward to your response.
Being a marketer myself, I really just want to know how this email sequence is performing. I’m also confident that she is bullshitting me by saying she doesn’t know the response rate.
Companies like FreshDesk monitor this data like a hawk. But alas, she pushes me down the funnel to her local sales rep Andrew.
Andrew looks at the file, sees our user base and decides to visit one of our offices in person.
(Side note: Zendesk has never visited us in person.)
When Andrew arrives at our office, I was still resistant to moving to FreshDesk. At this point I don’t really “love” Zendesk. I’d say on a scale of 1 to 10, I was a 6. While that’s approaching dangerous territory as a customer of theirs, I still won’t switch software unless somebody either gives me a good deal or the software is much better than what I’m currently using.
Like I said, switching platforms sucks!
Andrew and I strike up a conversation about the issues we face as a remote organization. Looking back, I liked the fact that we didn’t jump straight into a sales pitch.
It turns out that FreshDesk cost less per seat which I’m usually resistant to (if your software is cheaper than your competitor you know it isn’t as good and you’re playing a price game as opposed to a technology game); however their reporting was better which was what we had a particular problem with as we couldn’t adequately measure how well our customer support team was doing.
I walked in to that meeting not wanting to buy FreshDesk and walked out thinking it was a possible option (My loyalty to Zendesk has now moved to a 4 out of 10).
We actually discussed remote productivity and thought investigating an integration would be an interesting partnership to pursue. We decided to start building out the integration (we just finished it) before buying and we exchanged test accounts to set up our integrations, this was where they turned us into a customer.
Why we switched:
- The app on first glance is ‘as good’ as Zendesk which was my primary fear with lower pricing (pricing is less important than reliability).
- The reporting feature was really good, I can now get reports on exactly how well we’re doing with our support (more about that later).
- They were interested in integrating with us because they knew the value of remote time tracking apps into their system.
- We’d be saving a few hundred bucks per month by switching to FreshDesk. Nothing to sneeze at.
- They have a team dedicated to moving our data over to FreshDesk and they do it for free. I think we were offline for about a day and the headache from that was minimal.
We started moving our data over to Fresh Desk in late December of 2014 and was fully online for the new year, completing a six month sales cycle.
I think they have one of the smartest remote sales cycles I’ve ever encountered.
From the first touch point to end conversion they had a great sales process that costs a mere fraction of their competitor’s sales process because of their expert use of a remote sales team.
Why was Freshdesk able to give us an inside sales process that was BETTER than zendesk’s but also give us a better deal on the software?
Let’s break this down a bit.
FreshDesk has what I consider three silver bullets at work for them.
Their first silver bullet is that they have a huge inside sales team and the majority of it is remote. Preethie is located in Chennai, India and the remainder of the sales team is located throughout India and south east asia.
From my experience in dealing with them, their sales team is as good or better than any US based team but their costs are arguably a third of the prices you’ll usually see for US based tech startup sales teams.
Their second silver bullet is unlike other companies that go purely offshore, FreshDesk has high end remote sales reps, such as Andrew, in their top territories.
He took me out for tea, talked to me, worked with me over a few months and only did that because he had assessed me as being a lead he could follow up on which was already cleared by the offshore lead generation division.
These sales reps are top in their field but since they work remotely are on average 20% cheaper than their in-office counterparts.
Their third silver bullet is the integration they have from a software perspective between the lead generation and the closer teams. I was able to learn more about Freshdesk’s processes during our chats and found they have a really tight hand off process from potential lead to closed client.
They’re fighting a war of attrition but I think they’re winning for the following reasons.
All of these measures result in being able to lower their CAC (cost of acquisition) by 50%. I might even venture to guess that the price is lower than this. This makes them incredibly dangerous as they have software that’s as good as Zendesk and have a sales process that’s at the least twice as efficient as theirs.
Does this give FreshDesk a strategic advantage?
But it does give them a tactical advantage. I spoke to our support team and discovered that there are a few things they like more than Zendesk, a few things they like less than Zendesk, and a few things they are indifferent about.
In other words, from a technology standpoint, it’s a wash.
All things being equal, I’m convinced that if Zendesk had lowered their price or paid attention to us as a customer we would have just stayed with them. FreshDesk has a better sales process but not necessarily a better product.
If you’d like to try out our new integration with FreshDesk, check out our integration here, it will allow you to seamlessly see how productive your employees are on each ticket they respond to.
Liam Martin is a co-founder of Time Doctor which is software to improve productivity and help keep track and know what your team is working on, even when working from home.