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The Spark: A Startup Is Born

Written by Cy Khormaee

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Editors Note – Cy is a friend of HostGator, currently pursuing entrepreneurial dreams in Silicon Valley. We have asked him to share his adventures.

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Every once in a while, that elusive flash of inspiration delivers the seed of an idea.  It seems innocuous at first, but it lives and grows in the back of your mind; you can’t shake it.  It make take years to come to the fore, but it never fades.  For me, that is exactly how Contastic became a company.  What follows is our story.

From the moment I walked in the door to my first sales job at Microsoft, I knew that sales is a winner-take-all business.  The top performers close ten times more deals than the average rep.   After spending a bunch of time with the top performers, I still couldn’t quite put my finger on exactly how they were accomplishing such remarkable numbers.  Their close rates and techniques seemed just about the same as everyone else; why were their results so spectacular?

 

The Epiphany

My epiphany came when I saw their prospect lists.   The best sales people had massive funnels 10+ times larger than those of everyone else.  They would progressively farm this list to surface deals – ensuring they stayed in touch with as much of their network as possible.

 

contastic Contastic’s dashboard, showing your engagement with your contacts.

 

I use the word “surface” because that truly is the key to great sales.  It’s all about discovery – not conversion.  It’s really hard to talk someone into buying anything they don’t already want.  Instead, it’s more efficient to simply discover who is already looking to buy – and then be in the right place at the right time to sell to them.

My observations are further backed by research (don’t take my word for it!).  The first wake up call comes from Gleanster Research, which published that 50% of leads are qualified but not yet ready to buy.  This points directly to a need for lead nurturing to stay top of mind with those leads until they’re ready.  And Forrester drove it home by showing that companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost.  The numbers don’t lie!

 

Staying in touch: The Hard Way

This transformed the way I thought about sales, from being an act of persuasion to a feat of engineering.  It was about designing a process that would efficiently surface and qualify leads through prospecting.  I built a massive thousand-row Excel sheet of every person and every customer I had ever met.  I’d record interactions and, on a quarterly basis, I’d try and reconnect with everyone on the list.  By the end of my three years I became a top rep.

This was, however, a painful and awkward process.  I’d have to search for each person’s email to figure out when we last spoke and on what topic.  Crafting a personalized email then required several more minutes, and often times I’d simply be sending a no-value-add checking email (“Hey X, how are things with you?”).  For high value contacts, I’d take 20-30 minutes to find an interesting piece of news or research to send them – as a way to (I hoped) at least contribute some value to their life.

 

Staying In Touch: The Right Way

I thought – why can’t I give this VIP level of service to all of my contacts?  Why can’t the lead nurturing process be automated to provide personalized service to every customer and prospect? This idea sat in the back of my head as I was swept into my first startup (cimls.com) where I saw realtors struggle with this exact same problem – staying in touch with current prospects and past clients.  I witnessed this every single day in business school as well, students networking with each other and talking with different companies to find jobs. Lost connections and lost opportunities, simply because it was too hard to stay in touch.

When I graduated in 2013, I knew I had to build this tool to help people stay in touch.  I moved out to Menlo Park, CA – with nothing more than 5 boxes of my belongings via UPS to pursue my dream of building Contastic –a platform to help professionals stay in touch.  How can one recent grad convince others to join him, build a product, find customers and realize his dream?

 

Stay tuned for the next post: Perilous Pivots – When A Dream Meets Reality

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About Cy

I’m an engineer who loves to sell.   My career started out in big data engineering for Microsoft evolved into a sales role that landed me as the founder of Contastic.  I bring the hard data-driven approach of an engineer to the softer science of sales.  It’s always a pleasure for me to meet new people and help them evolve their sales practices.  You can find me online at cykho.com.

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