Oscar: I’d like to welcome to the studio today, David Kreiger, CEO of Sales Roads, welcome.
David: Thank you very much, great to be here.
Oscar: On behalf of EO South Florida we’d like to congratulate you for earning your prestigious ranking on the Inc 2014 fastest growing privately held companies in the United States. Again congratulations. Tell us about Sales Roads and how you’re growing so quickly.
David: Yeah, so we are a business to business sales outsourcing company, so we specialize in lead generation appointment setting and full sales outsourcing for our clients. Many of our clients are companies that are either already growing companies and are looking to accelerate their growth or they have a great product, they’re not sure exactly how they want to promote it. They look to us to really invigorate their sales force with either appointments, leads, or if the product can be sold through inside sales which is phone sales they will enlist us to sell the whole product or service over the phone for them.
Oscar: Is that a unique business model?
David: There are many different sales outsourcing companies across the country. There’s really, I think, two things that we do that are pretty unique that’s helped to accelerate our growth and our client’s growth. The first is when I founded the company I started it as a distributed call center, so what does that mean? It’s basically instead of everybody sitting in a centralized location all of our agents are around the country working out of their home offices. The reason why that’s important for our clients is basically it’s one of the most important things in any sales organization is the people that you can recruit.
In my previous life before becoming an entrepreneur I was building inbound call centers and inside sales teams and I always had done it because that’s the way it always had been done through a centralized model. One of the things I found is it’s very hard to find very good people when you’re limited to a certain area and in this case I was limited to Westchester County, New York which isn’t the easiest place to find very high level people at the price points that our HR department was asking us to fulfill those positions. With the virtual model we’re able to recruit anywhere in the country and so what we’ve been able to do is recruit an unbelievable group of sales executives that aren’t necessarily based in Coral Springs, but are based around the country and be able to just find the best people possible for those roles.
Now also the other thing that is interesting about recruiting through the distributed model is not only does it give you the opportunity to recruit all around the country, finding the best people possible, but often times the best people who want to fill these roles aren’t going to do it in a centralized environment. We have amazing sales people who have built their career in sales, maybe they’re coming towards the end of their career. They never would want to work in a centralized call center and do the inside sales work, but working from home really appeals to them.
The types of people that we can get who have built a career in sales, who have gone either outside or done other types of sales roles are very compelled to work for us. Also work at home parents who need a little bit of a balance between the life, they maybe had a full-time career before. They can’t do a full-time career now, they can work for us and we’re able to work very successfully with those individuals.
That’s the first thing that has allowed us to have the type of growth that we’ve enjoyed over the past few years and be able to service our clients in the way that we want. The second is that we really take training, mentorship, coaching, extremely seriously. In order to build a high-caliber sales organization you’ve got to really invest in your people and make sure that they’re able to do the good type of work that they need to do.
When we work with these individuals we spend a lot of time coaching, mentoring, building them up and we’ve developed an unbelievable program that when somebody comes to Sales Roads, not only obviously are they coming with some amazing talents, they’re run through our system which has received awards. I was ranked the number one most influential inside sales thought leader last year and so we’ve used some of these different types of strategies, built a dynamic training program and been able to funnel amazing people that our clients can leverage through their inside sales needs.
Oscar: With a virtual sales team? Is that an accurate way of saying that?
David: Yeah, virtual. Yeah, distributers.
Oscar: Distributed. How do you maintain quality and control over your remote staff?
David: Yeah, so we’ve developed a robust technology platform with one of our partners and so basically even though they’re not sitting in a room next to us we can monitor them in exactly the same way that they were. Every dial that they make we can track, every call that they make we can listen to or we can record and so because sales is such a metric-based thing we really have certain metrics that we know that they need to hit and we can see on a minute by minute, day by day basis whether they’re hitting those metrics or not hitting those metrics. While at the same time being able to listen, coach, in the same way that you can in a centralized environment.
Oscar: That’s fantastic. When you launched your business did you build a detailed business plan?
David: I did. When I first was thinking about launching my business I actually started from the idea that I wanted to create a business plan first, which is sometimes is a little bit different than the way some entrepreneurs start. I went to the Wharton School of Business and they really have a great program that fosters entrepreneurship, wants to develop entrepreneurs and within the first month I heard about the business plan competition. I’d always wanted to go start my own company, become an entrepreneur and I thought what a great way to take the first step by entering the business plan competition. I entered the business plan competition and through the process of applying and being part of the business plan competition I developed my business plan.
Oscar: The same one you launched?
David: The same one I launched, yes.
Oscar: That is magnificent.
David: Yeah, and it was great. It was an amazing program. We got third in the business plan competition, so I got a little bit of validation right at the beginning and then from there I knew that we had something. I dedicated both to obviously trying to graduate from Wharton while also building the infrastructure of operations and really thinking through what we wanted to launch once I graduated. Wharton gave us office space, gave us a little bit of seed funding. I had access to the professors to bounce different ideas off them as I was building the company.
It was just an amazing two years of just working on my business, learning and thinking about my courses through the lens of launching a company and I think we were better for it. We launched in 2007. I had thought through so many different eventualities and things, we were that much more prepared to really go into the real world and make something of value.
Oscar: Early on how were you able to test out your assumptions in your business model?
David: Early on was really through the prism of both business plan judges and professors, which though they’re very valuable in bouncing ideas it’s not necessarily the real world. We got a lot of accolades through the business plan that it was a good concept. Really the true way that we tested is that I just started calling while I was in school, different people to see what their needs were and very early on I realized that there was a tremendous need for high-quality inside sales, business to business appointment setting and lead generation. We started just in the appointment setting lead generation space
later on because we had done some amazing work in that regard.
Other clients asked us can you do more, can you actually help us to sell it and so we said yes. Originally it was just doing the appointment setting lead generation and I think the way we were able to validate it is just the old-fashioned way. You talk to prospective clients, you hear what their needs are, what their pain is, and it seemed that there was pretty ubiquitous need in the marketplace for high-quality business to business appointment setting, leads for their sales people. As you had mentioned earlier there are a number of companies that do it or do try to do it, but it’s not easy and a lot of companies don’t do it well. I think it’s really because of the two things that I enumerated before. It’s really difficult to find the right people.
Not only do we have the opportunity to find the right people because of the distributed model, but also our HR department is interviewing nonstop every day. We’re just continuously looking for people because it’s hard to find people who not just can do this work, but love doing this work. Because people aren’t going to be great and aren’t going to do great things unless they love it, so our HR department is continuously looking for people who love and excel at this. It’s not easy to do it and that’s why a lot of organizations that don’t focus on this or don’t invest in the way that they need to to do it have difficulty doing it well.
Second is developing the processes and iterating the processes. Things are changing. The Internet has been an obvious game changer in so many regards, but business to business sales, things are changed every month. The tools that you can use to find, engage with prospects and learn about them, find ways for them to tell you and offer up information about them and if you’re not incorporating those types of strategies it’s very difficult to succeed.
I again use the old-fashioned way, talk to prospective clients, knew that there was a pain here, that it was something they needed. As a little side note, a lot of times entrepreneurship is about finding something completely new, right, something that hasn’t been done before. I think there’s tremendous value in it and in some ways more value is doing something that’s needed that isn’t easy to do and doing it better than everybody else and that’s what we’ve achieved at Sales Roads.
Oscar: Unbelievably exciting. Does Sales Roads specialize in a particular vertical of products or services or your agnostic as to what you represent?
David: We’re fairly agnostic with a few caveats, so we are all business to business. We don’t do any consumer-based work. We also don’t work with very, very technical types of sales where even on the pre-level in order to qualify and what not you have to have a very technical person with a technical background. For the most part though besides that we found that the right type of company that is really looking to grow, has a great product, has a great value proposition, even if they haven’t found it. Sometimes we have our clients come to us and they’re not exactly sure how to position their product, their service, and we work with them to help them find that. As long as we can work with them to help develop that they’re engaged to really invest in the sales efforts. We found that companies that are looking to grow and are invested in the sales process we can be tremendously successful with.
Oscar: Wharton assisted you in the finance of your launch, but your company is growing by leaps and bounds. Have you needed to go out and seek additional growth capital?
David: We haven’t, we’ve been fortunate in that regard. We did get a little bit of seed capital and I was fortunate to have some family members do a little seed capital at the very beginning, but other than that we were lucky at the beginning to get a few very good clients out of the gate. We were able to do good work with them, they expanded with us and we’ve been able to fuel our growth just through our existing operations.
Oscar: Fantastic. What was the toughest decision you ever made since the launch of your business?
David: The toughest decision that I had was when my first client who wanted us to do full inside sales outsourcing to actually go and do it for them. What I’ve learned through entrepreneurship is that you have to be focused. We focus business to business inside sales at least at the beginning or appointment setting and lead generation at the beginning. When you do something just even a little bit different it can be very difficult, which is why I think some organizations have a tough time doing inside sales themselves. They’re very good at building their product, they’re very good at developing their product, but to build an inside sales team that’s almost a whole different skill set and so that’s obviously the same for us.
When a client asks us to do full sales cycle versus just doing the appointment setting that was a difficult decision because I knew from the business school days, doing something a little different can be tough. When I really looked at it I looked at our core service which is finding the right people, training those people, mentoring, coaching those people. Then we obviously knew that product very well and we were very successful at doing the first part of the sales cycle.
I realized it wasn’t so far out of the realm of what we’ve done and so I took that decision very seriously because anything a client asks me to do obviously we’re only going to do it if we can do it extremely well. I decided that that was something that we were open to going into and we really invested hard to make sure that doing that second part of the sales cycle we could do very well. It’s
been one of the best decisions I’ve made since starting the company.
Oscar: David, you are an exceptionally bright entrepreneur and I absolutely love your business model and I believe in what you’re doing. I’d like to make a $1 million investment in your company and I’m curious how you would deploy those funds.
David: First, I appreciated the compliment, but first of all we’re not taking investors, no. Here’s another thing that I’ve learned since founding the company is that we’ve been growing fast. We grew at 435% over the past three years which obviously we’re very proud of. I also don’t want to grow for growth sake. I’ve realized that everything we do, every client we take on is a lot of work to do it right. If we do it right for our client that pays us back in spades. Most of our growth has been through current clients that have just expanded with us because we were doing well for them. I’m not sure if I would want a capital infusion just to grow.
I think incremental growth, even though it depends on how you define 435%, but I don’t know if we want to grow any faster than that because what we’ve been doing has been working. We incrementally take on new clients, we do great work for them and then we grow with them. To be honest I’m not … If our model is working right now I’m not sure if there’s a significant investment I want to make. I had learned from an Internet startup that I had worked at before. They took on 65 million in capital and they wanted to just grow, grow, grow, and they eventually closed their doors. Capital doesn’t make the difference often, there’s some companies that does. It’s the people and it’s the strategy and it’s taking each step carefully and doing it well that I think makes the difference.
Oscar: Very interesting. If you had some magical powers for just a couple of minutes and you could reverse, wind back the clock from day one of your launch all the way up to current and you had the power of reversing any singular decision that you made, what would you go back and change?
David: I wouldn’t change anything. That doesn’t mean I haven’t made mistakes, we all make mistakes, but the great thing about mistakes is if you have the right mindset you learn from them, you grow from them. I feel that every setback we’ve had and obviously there’s been setbacks, nothing cataclysmic which is great, but obviously little setbacks as you build any type of company. We’ve emerged stronger from them because not only myself as the entrepreneur, but my organization, the people with me, I try to instill that type of values in them. That, okay, this happened, we made a mistake, one of the decisions we made didn’t work out, what can we learn from it and how can we flip it on its head and become better because of it?
Oscar: If you’re not looking to change anything going backwards let’s look at the future. How do you think the business climate will change over the next five years and how will that affect your business?
David: I’m an eternal optimist and so I do think the business climate will be good for the next five years and I think that America is a great place to do business. Our economy though not growing obviously as fast as we want is growing and there are pockets of amazing things that are happening across the country which I think is very exciting for my business, businesses in general, and entrepreneurship. That being said I think that there will always be a need for business to business, inside sales outsourcing, appointment setting, lead generation, full sales outsourcing. I think that need is innate in selling products and bringing those types of products and services to consumers or other businesses.
What definitely won’t be the same is the way that you do it today versus the next six months, a year from now, five years from now. I think that with the Internet and with other things that emerge in new technologies to be a great inside sales team you have to always be looking forward and seeing what ways you can master these tools, leverage them, to engage with prospects, teach prospects, consult with prospects, learn from them as to what their needs are. Inside sales isn’t about the hammer anymore.
Back in the day when people were just pounding the phones, that doesn’t work that well anymore. It’s about engaging with prospects. Prospects are very smart, they can research everything on the Internet, right. It’s by leveraging that data and information that they call out to you in the most effective way possible to be able to then deliver solutions to them that make sense and impact their business and to me that’s very exciting.
Oscar: To me as well. What one word describes you as an entrepreneur?
David: Right, so that wouldn’t be the first word that probably comes out of an entrepreneur’s mouth, but I think it’s my nature and it’s also because I was part of a startup that wasn’t cautious and again I like to learn from previous mistakes. It’s much better to learn from other people’s mistakes than your own, too, right.
Oscar: Of course.
David: I feel that though we do move quickly, we make decisions as an organization, we’re very entrepreneurial, we think through things and we think through things for ourselves as well as for our clients. We always want to be looking out there and understand the landscape of what we’re doing and how we’re operating and then moving forward in the best possible way.
Oscar: How do you define success?
David: Everything that comes to mind is a little clichéd, but I think that that’s maybe okay.
David: I do think that success especially in the context of entrepreneurship is showing up. I went to the Inc 5000 conference and heard Brené Brown. I hope I’m not mispronouncing her name. I think that’s what it is and she had an amazing quote from Teddy Roosevelt about being in the arena and just going out there, putting yourself out there, allowing yourself to be vulnerable because that’s what entrepreneurship is, right, creating anything especially of meaning is allowing yourself to go out there and be vulnerable.
When I made the decision to become an entrepreneur I always wanted to, but when I was making that decision I had lots of offers coming out of Wharton to do other things and to be an employee. It took a leap to be able to go out and do it. I remember making that decision and turning down that last job offer and there’s this hole of hollowness. When you start your business it’s sheer excitement. When you get under the covers there’s scaredness because all of a sudden you’ve now told the world that you’re going to go do this and you’re not 100% … You have a business plan and things like that, but you don’t know what the next step is going to be or what the next few months have in store for you.
I really think that when you just make the decision to give it a go, to show up, and even if it fails and she, Brené, Dr. Brown had an amazing thing to say. You shouldn’t necessarily think about what should you do if failure is not an option, what would you do if failure is the option and you still would enjoy doing it and would be proud of yourself for doing it even though you failed. I think that that’s what entrepreneurship is and I think that makes for the best entrepreneurs because you go out there and you do it. You love what you’re doing and it’s not just about the success at the end, it’s about going and doing it and making the most of it.
Oscar: Exceptionally well said, really spectacular. If I say the words to you trust and respect, what does that mean to you?
David: It means a lot. I think that there’s no relationship without trust and respect, therefore, there’s no business without trust and respect. There’s no clients, there’s no employees without trust and respect. I think those are some of the most important words that somebody can try to embody. I can’t tell you the number of times a client has turned to me afterwards where we told them about something that had happened that we didn’t necessarily need to tell them about. The fact that we came out and we explained the situation to them they trusted us that much more and had that much more respect. Sometimes people will hide from things that are difficult. I think if you take things head on and you can build trust with your coworkers, with your vendors, with your clients, with obviously your spouse, it pays you back in spades.
Oscar: Beautiful, well said. Final question, let’s imagine for just a moment that when you wake up tomorrow morning your company is no longer in existence. What type of business will you try to launch next?
David: I would launch Sales Roads again. I don’t have a not compete with myself. I love what I do, I love building this company, I love working with my employees, I love working with my clients on a day to day basis. Helping to promote their products, allowing their prospects to learn about what they’re doing because the clients we have are just phenomenal. The things they do for their clients are phenomenal. I couldn’t picture waking up and not doing it tomorrow, so if for reason it wasn’t there I’d do it all over again.
Oscar: Fantastic. David, I can’t tell you what a pleasure it was to have you in our studio today. You are unbelievably inspiring as a fellow entrepreneur and again on behalf of EO South Florida congratulations on your tremendous success and your ranking on the Inc list. It’s very appreciative that you’re helping to continue to spur the entrepreneurial spirit in South Florida and again thank you and congratulations.
David: Thank you so much for having me.
Oscar: It’s been a pleasure.
David: This has been great.