Morphing into a Rocketship: Learning to Love Sales


Mallun Yen, chief business and product officer at RPX Corp, moderates a discussion between two executives at Rainforest QA: Farlan Dowell, VP of sales, and Fred Stevens-Smith, its CEO. The two discuss a drastic increase in average contract value and building a sales team.

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In a nutshell:

  • Make sure you have leads before bringing in more than one rep. And make sure you have more to feed the next rep.
  • Keep it simple: don't over-engineer your organization.
  • Keep your sales organization on mission, but still fun.

Farlan Dowell, VP of sales at Rainforest QA

Dowell was hired as employee #13 at Rainforest, and was its only sales executive (the three before him were fired). Under his direction, Rainforest moved from an ACV of $10,000 to $56,000 - a change reflecting that the product had increased in value, and went upmarket at the same time. Rainforest had to establish a process for the sales team - a system to get a deal from lead to close and have that mirrored in SalesForce. Next, he hired two SDRs to ramp up the outbound sales efforts. His learnings from the process? Sales organizations are highly value-driven, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have fun.

Fred Stevens-Smith, CEO of Rainforest QA

Stevens-Smith’s journey as a founder had a rocky start: he was fired from his job. But it worked out pretty darn well – his startup was accepted into Y Combinator, and grew from there. He shared some advice on building a sales organization:

  • A/B test your first two sales employees to find the right profile going forward.
  • When you raise your prices, you attract bigger deals. Don’t be shy about experimenting with pricing.
  • Wait until you have product-market fit to hire sales reps.
  • Culture is what matters most.

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