This article was published before TruFan became Surf for Brands. You can see more about the rebrand here.
Acquiring competitors, a surge of new customers, and unlimited upsell opportunities: 3 things every budding entrepreneur dreams of.
When your startup is in its infancy, you hope every hot sale is the start of a revenue snowball. But for Marko Mrkonjic, Director of Sales at Trufan, the realities of ‘the boom’ come with their own set of challenges.
Most of those challenges revolve around one thing: scaling as a startup.
Startup focus shifts: From funding to scaling
Trufan is an audience intelligence solution focused on generating, segmenting and activating first and third party data. With 10,000+ free users and 600+ customers, Marko needs to multiply paying customers while building marketing and sales machines...
We started 4 years ago by leveraging Instagram and Twitter data to help marketers make better decisions. But we were focused on improving the product and our first big acquisition of SocialRank. Sales hasn’t been much of a focus until I was brought on as the first sales leader in 2020.
The target user for Trufan is a tech-savvy, marketing or analytics leader who wants to get to know their customer even deeper––by adding real social intelligence and attribution to their customer profiles.
This means Marko’s challenge is to build a sales team that can attract and convert a modern SaaS buyer. Outreach and automation are the center of his world:
Now, we need a revenue engine to scale. I take a more methodical approach to hiring. Just because we raised money doesn’t mean we have to hire to hit certain growth metrics. When my calendar is flooded with leads, then we’ll hire. I’m leading with a balance of proactivity and reactivity.
Trufn has grown its customer base largely on organic and inbound marketing––building a pipeline that converts prospects in a light sales cycle with a self-serve product and inexpensive starter plans.
Marko has also learned not to write off industries like gaming, alcohol and beverage, and even skincare as his team learned profitable customers and use cases could be around every corner.
Today, he’s leading a team with a traditional internal structure and balancing growth with fundraising rounds:
- Recruiting more sales reps
- Account management for upsells, professional services, and renewals
- Closed seed round and now raising series A
- Scaling up marketing, sales enablement, account executives, and BDRs
HubSpot slowed Trufan’s workflow
To add to the challenges of scaling a sales team, the Trufan team was using a bad-fit CRM when Marko first joined the team.
They had used the HubSpot CRM since the inception of the company thanks to a deep startup discount. Marko had used it previously, and while he says he doesn't like the HubSpot CRM, he admitted Trufan was also using it poorly when he joined:
"I didn’t think HubSpot was scalable for what we needed today. It had quickly turned into a marketing automation system with a clunky CRM attached to it. We had messy, dirty data. We were going to spend months cleaning it up or start fresh with a more user-friendly CRM.
"For sales reps who haven’t used many CRMs, HubSpot is just too much. As a young company with young employees, I wanted a product that fits our needs now until we grow to the point of using Salesforce."
Marko started a free migration with Close to take his enterprise-focused sales team out of HubSpot. Having a dialer, email sequences, and the centralized inbox are now essential pieces to his team’s ability to prospect and sell faster––without clunky tech.
Close is just so much cleaner than HubSpot, especially the tasks. It’s all in one place and easy to use. I don’t need to give my reps cell phones, Aircall, or Skype accounts. We like Close much more.
Close vs. HubSpot pricing through a sales leader’s eyes
Price is almost always a factor in a search for the right CRM. But as a sales leader, Marko stresses that too many sales leaders let price overshadow more important factors like adoption, onboarding, and sales team ease of use.
"Honestly, cost is rarely a factor for me when buying software. We were on a crazy-inexpensive legacy startup cost for HubSpot. Coming to Close, we now pay more––but it’s still miniscule compared to our ROI.
"We get absolutely raving reviews from our sales and customer support teams using Close. Even our co-founders are very happy."
Critical CRM features for scaling startup sales
This stage of Trufan’s scaling needs a balanced mix of right-sized tech and a free-flowing pipeline. Marko is leading his team into a phase of heavy outreach and prospecting within Close.
The dialer, tasks, custom fields, and account-level notes are critical to their workflow. These Close features keep their leads organized and allow BDRs to leverage templates so they can prospect faster––and smarter. “If I don’t have Close, I can’t do my job,” Marko says. “Templates help sales reps remember exactly what to ask in discovery and qualifying calls, and Smart Views let Account Management breeze through renewals for monthly focus accounts.
With the Close Pipeline view, Marko can also report back to his co-founders on Trufan’s progress each week and easily answer their questions.
Next up, Marko’s planning to simplify his training process for new Trufan sales reps by using the new Close Call Coaching features. “Gong is amazing, but it doesn’t make sense to add right now. Reps shadow me all the time, and I want them to be able to jump on without customers knowing.”
Fast, tangible results in Close
6 Months after moving from HubSpot to Close, Marko can already pinpoint time-savings for his team. This reclaimed time provides cost-savings for Trufan, but it’s also increasing onboarding speed and simplifying their account management:
I save so much time as a sales leader. When I dug into HubSpot, I spent way too long looking for data that I can find in Close in 30 seconds. The Close team provided training, but I also could have learned this tool myself so quickly.
Plus, having sales, account management, product leads, and customer-facing teams under one CRM speeds up everyone’s days. We used to bounce between three different platforms. Smooth account management means we have no unnecessary customer communication.
Looking ahead: Unified brand and full pipeline
Marko has big plans in his sights as Trufan’s sales leader––with a bigger brand in his crosshairs as they complete acquisitions of PLAYR.gg and SocialRank:
"It’s a big deal to unite 3 brands under 1 umbrella. We’re building a true data infrastructure for marketers where they can leverage social analytics and first party data to help them make smarter decisions. Our customers will be able to engage their audiences and entice them to take key actions: all in one of the only fully compliant audience intelligence platforms in our entire industry."