Aircall is a 500 portfolio company that addresses this one single truth about growing a business and getting repeat customers:
Phone calls still matter.
The company offers next-gen phone support solutions that integrate your stuff with Slack, a Chrome app, Zendesk, and a bunch of other services, and they recently raised $2.75 million upon graduating from the 500 Accelerator’s Batch 14.
Recently, I spoke with Aircall’s founder and CEO Olivier Pailhes about the company’s One Metric That Matters, growth process, and the tactic that helped them get 800 clients, including the likes of Uber.
It was a really fun interview, and I learned a few things that I’ve started applying to my own stuff, even though I’m not running a startup that’s aiming to disrupt the $350 billion customer service industry.
Hopefully you will too.
1. What’s your OMTM (one metric that matters)?
For us, it’s all about monthly recurring revenue.
Usage is important, and we have different engagement and pricing levels, but ultimately we believe that usage and engagement are measured by willingness to pay.
2. What’s your 3-month growth on your OMTM?
31% per month, from $15.3K to $34.4K.
3. What’s your 6-month growth on your OMTM?
31% per month, from 15.3k$ to 58.5k$
4. Ok, that’s weird. Why was MoM growth so consistent, to the precise tune of 31%?
Well we are hustlers. We set our sales quota at 31% growth, so that is exactly what our team hits every month. No less (so far), and no more.
Sales people are extremely goal oriented. Given them a quota — and the right incentive — and they will hit it, even if that means making calls at 6 pm on December 31st or Christmas Eve to get warms leads to close (our Jewish sales guy did this).
The last two weeks or the last week of the month, if we’re below target… well, we’re just running like crazy to make that target. If I showed you our weekly gross, it would be a lost less consistent, but when we set a monthly target, we organize everything to meet that.
5. So, sales people are competitive and will work their butts off for the right incentives. What’s your incentive structure for your sales team?
I can tell you what we do today, which is different from six months ago and will probably be different six months from now.
Currently what we do is a team bonus. This is probably unusual, but so far it has helped us to work hard — as a team — and hit goals — as a team. We’re aligned.
Here are some actual numbers.
In December 2015, our target was $60K.
If we hit it, the deal was we were going to do a cash bonus of $5K for the team (hey, we’re still a startup).
There are five of us, so that means $1,000 for each person.
Our next target is $100K in revenue. If we make that by the end of February, which is super short so it’s a big stretch goal, then we’re gonna give $10k to the whole team.
On top of this, there’s a side bonus for the tech team. If we meet the target, then the business team invites the whole tech team to a great restaurant to reward them for providing support on the tech side. So it’s indirect bonus to them as well.
This is how we do right now, at this stage and size. It’s probably nuts, but it seems to be working for us right now as a small team. We hit the quotas, and it creates a team spirit.
6. What other factors contributed to your 3- and 6-month growth, besides your sales process.?
Outbound campaigns to selected verticals drove a lot of good, ongoing inbound leads (thanks, Susan, for your email scripting
Then as we built integrations, especially with Zendesk and Slack, things started to take off even more.
This month, 80% of our leads came from inbound. This is great, but the absolute best part is that we convert 30% of those leads to paying customers.
7. 30% lead-to-close is pretty damn good. Why / how?
Well, I’ll tell you how it happened with Uber, as I think that illustrates a lot.
We were out running (yes we do it as a team), and we saw a signup come through that was from Uber.
We thought, “That’s a joke, right?” but then we saw that it was an Uber.com email address.
As per our normal process, where we aim to call leads back within 2 hours max, but ideally within the hour, we called them immediately, within about 20 minutes of their signup.
They were so incredibly impressed with the call back time, and the fact that we responded them to ask if they were happy with the product. At that time, it was something like 9 pm PST, so it really wowed them as nice customer service.
This process isn’t just for big clients like Uber, either. We take a lot of pride in our business, and try to extend this for every client. It’s not a sexy “hack” but it is working really well for us.
8. Let’s switch gears because you’re making all of us feel bad. What’s one thing you tried that FAILED MISERABLY?
Doing a “soft sale” proposing a blog interview for leadgen and engagement.
We had a discussion with Nemo, who was our 500 Distro, in which we told him, Hey… we’re running our outbound campaigns and yet we are conversion rates around 1% (at the time).
Nemo said, You cannot continue like that, so why don’t we start this modern approach where we’d reach out to companies proposing to do a blog interview and generate some inbound, while also getting a chance to get in front of them and talk about our product.
We ended up doing 250 blog interviews. But, in the end, we realized this is something for Nemo — this is something for someone smart. And we’re not, exactly. We’re just a small team of 2 guys, 2 interns and yes we got the interviews but then were very difficult to move forward.
Nemo did a test himself to prove the concept, he spoke to a random guy and converted him. We recorded the conversation, and it was fantastic.
But, we realized that it’s something we’re just not experienced in and wasn’t going to work for us.
So the takeaway is, play to your strengths, and realize when you in particular don’t have the skills to execute a given tactic. As in our case, the problem could be YOU, but don’t take it personally — it’s just a fact that you have to accept and move on from.
9. What’s your next goal?
We want to move from SMBs to more Enterprise clients, and do more and better customer nurture. Our goal is to move from 10 seats to 30-50 seats, and create more products and features that enterprise level clients want.
This month, we had 560 signups and 80% of those were inbound, with 30% converting to paid customers. 4 months ago, it was half of that, and a huge part has to do with the 500 Accelerator.
The best part of 500 was the growth side.
Like I said, Nemo was too smart for us, and we felt bad and stupid and unstructured every week when we met with him — but it still helped immensely.
It was having our own personal, dedicated growth marketing expert. Doing the Accelerator was honestly one of our best decisions, and we’re very excited to make this company big.