SaaS: $7m ARR Founder Used Ice Cream To Get Customers, How?

C. Lee Smith

In Episode #792, Nathan interviews C. Lee Smith. He’s the CEO of SalesFuel, a multi-million dollar sales enablement firm he founded in Columbus, Ohio in 1989. SalesFuel leverages critical insights that enables its clients to acquire, develop and retain their best employees and customers. The company is launching a brand new product called TeamKeeper that will revolutionize the way managers manage and develop their people which leads to a happy, business culture and a reduction in turnover.

Famous Five:

Time Stamped Show Notes:

  • 02:02 – Nathan introduces Lee to the show
  • 02:42 – SalesFuel does sales enablement
    • 02:48 – It helps salespeople to sell better, close more deals and be the trusted advisors for their client
  • 03:23 – SalesFuel leverages critical insights for both sales prospects and employees
  • 03:35 – SalesFuel has 3 SaaS products: AdMall, TeamKeeper and one still in the works
  • 03:59 – TeamKeeper is already up and working
  • 04:13 – AdMall is for media companies
  • 04:22 – When Lee started the company, the idea was to provide business intelligence based on business type
    • 04:35 – SalesFuel currently has over 450 types of businesses that they’re researching
  • 04:41 – The research team is the second largest team in SalesFuel with 10-15 people
  • 04:57 – Total team size is 30-40
  • 05:08 – 2016 total sales is $6-10M
  • 05:30 – SalesFuel was on the internet in 1995 with a few companies still new to the web when they had their first product
  • 05:56 – It was in 1997 when SalesFuel built their first web application
  • 06:25 – An AdMall customer pays an average of $500-1K a month
  • 06:51 – AdMall’s pricing model is based on the size of the sales team
    • 07:41 – The price depends on the range of the number of employees
    • 07:59 – For a digital agency, they have a different price because of the numbers of tools that they use
  • 08:21 – SalesFuel currently has 1500 customers
  • 09:21 – Columbus is a foodie town
    • 10:03 – Lee sent packs of dry ice cream from a local artisan to their potential clients
    • 10:09 – Lee had calls returned to him—he thinks it was the weirdest marketing strategy he ever used
    • 11:10 – Lee closed a deal from that marketing strategy
  • 12:06 – SalesFuel is 100% bootstrapped
  • 12:38 – First year revenue is around $100K
  • 12:50 – Revenue in 2000 was around a million
  • 13:45 – 2010 revenue is close to $3M
  • 14:40 – SalesFuel’s retention rate year over year is above 98%
    • 15:20 – SalesFuel has client and revenue growth year over year
    • 15:54 – Logo churn is equal to revenue churn
  • 16:34 – CAC
    • 16:48 – SalesFuel gets their leads from thought leadership and business development
    • 17:23 – For research and blog, SalesFuel spends a little over $250K annually
  • 17:45 – SalesFuel currently has 2 SDRs
    • 18:02 – Product team has close to 18 people
    • 18:15 – Sales and marketing team has 10 people and the rest are in operation
  • 19:23 – SalesFuel has around 100 new customers every year
  • 20:52 – The Famous Five

3 Key Points:

  1. A slow hustle is never a bad strategy— grow slowly and consistently.
  2. There are tons of new ways to gain customers; be creative, bold and just go for it.
  3. Believe that you can and will make it!

Resources Mentioned:

  • Simplero – The easiest way to launch your own membership course like the big influencers do but at 1/10th the cost.
  • The Top Inbox – The site Nathan uses to schedule emails to be sent later, set reminders in inbox, track opens, and follow-up with email sequences
  • GetLatka – Database of all B2B SaaS companies who have been on my show including their revenue, CAC, churn, ARPU and more
  • Klipfolio – Track your business performance across all departments for FREE
  • Hotjar – Nathan uses Hotjar to track what you’re doing on this site. He gets a video of each user visit like where they clicked and scrolled to make the site a better experience
  • Acuity Scheduling – Nathan uses Acuity to schedule his podcast interviews and appointments
  • Host Gator– The site Nathan uses to buy his domain names and hosting for the cheapest price possible
  • Audible– Nathan uses Audible when he’s driving from Austin to San Antonio (1.5-hour drive) to listen to audio books
  • Show Notes provided by Mallard Creatives