SalesHood CEO is latest of Salesforce’s starry offspring
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SalesHood CEO is latest of Salesforce’s starry offspring

One of the marks of a seminal, industry-changing company such as Oracle, IBM, Microsoft or Apple is that it tends to spawn startups that themselves become influential. Such is the case today with Salesforce.com and the company that was the godfather of modern CRM and cloud applications generally is well on its way to creating a family of celebrated progeny.

Companies such as the recently floated identity management firm Okta, sales automation firm InsideSales.com and cloud billing outfit Zuora all had roots in Salesforce terra firma and another company with the same provenance is SalesHood.

Founder and CEO Elay Cohen was a senior vice president at Salesforce and worked there between 2005 and 2013, about the time it was moving from pioneer to tech superpower. Cohen’s job was in the engine room, helping to train sales execs and get them up to speed on product, messaging, competition and all the other factors that go towards making a strong selling operation. It involved lots of hands-on work, many boot camps and, the way he tells it, lots of toil, blood, sweat and tears.

“It was effective… and highly inefficient and expensive,” he says when we talk over a video conference call. “I was a $40m-a-year line item and I was using Google Sheets to cover a lot of people to keep track of, loading up videos to server drives, cobbling together [communications with Salesforce] Chatter, loading PDFs… on-boarding was pretty much a Sheet. We were trying to use Cornerstone but it lacked community, or a way to record your pitch and have people score each other, and it didn’t understand snackable content. We tried Brainshark, Work.com.... And one day I had a moment of clarity - there had to be a more effective way.”

 

Problem solving

That way, a “SaaS platform to solve the problem of productivity”, was what was to become SalesHood. Cohen, a Canadian, today runs the four-year-old company from San Francisco in an office just around the corner from Salesforce’s (literally) towering HQ. SalesHood has 25,000 users at over 100 companies from tech sector peers such as Bluewolf, DocuSign and FinancialForce.com but also other companies in other verticals like Bloom Energy. Cohen’s boast is that using SalesHood delivers a 2x improvement in deal win rates with faster-closing and bigger contracts. Like Salesforce it’s composed of pre-packaged workflows based on best practices so time to deployment and effective production is rapid. Also like Salesforce, adoption tends to be viral: a CEO records a pitch, employees comment and rate it and other people show how they won deals - and so it goes on.

certification-leaderboard

Cohen says the SalesHood product was built to be “frontline-centric” but managers are also able to track what’s going on and it helps “make managers better managers”, able to confidently point to best practices and stuff that works.

The big objection he tends to hear is that “there’s no way sales people are going to share their secrets” but Cohen says that in fact most are happy to disclose what’s working for them. He says SalesHood answers the question of “Where do I go to learn about sales?” and believes that seasoned sellers want to tell others about how they made it in the business.

“In the past you would fly the sales team to Vegas for old-school enablement but you don’t need to spend millions of dollars. I believe the idea is universal.”

deal-win-recorder

Universal across sectors, that is, with consumer goods, pharmaceuticals, telcos and tech all using the service, but also, he says, it needn’t just be for sales staff, despite the name. Cohen recalls a similar conundrum at Salesforce where Marc Benioff toyed with the idea of renaming the company to ‘Force’ or something else less sales-centric but “nobody wanted to mess with karma”. Cohen doesn’t see much of Benioff these days but says the Salesforce boss is “absolutely aware of what we’re doing” and the pair keep in touch via email.

 

Different strokes

SalesHood might seem like just another company that took an old manual process and automated it in the cloud but it’s different to most in that he and co-founder Arthur Do didn’t raise tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in VC and it’s already cash-flow positive.

“We wanted to build a real company, solve real problems,” he says. “I really appreciated the conversations [with VCs] but we went at the right pace. I bootstrapped the company and we didn’t pay ourselves for years.”

Cohen says that he and Do wanted to remain the controlling shareholders, rather than seeing their shares diluted by outside cash investments, and he believes that might be a question of upbringing.

“My father is an Egyptian Jew and he had a furniture store and would be counting the money at the weekends; that’s in my DNA. It didn’t make sense to us to have all these big, fancy offices.”

He lets the camera pan around him, revealing an office that could be any other office anywhere else in the world.

“It’s a humble space that we earned,” he says. “We didn’t deserve this three years ago but now we do, and we live within our means. You see some companies and they have all this stuff but what problem are you solving? You gotta build a business.”

SalesHood today has $3m in annual recurring revenue, the key metric for cloud providers, and 32 staff, 22 of them developers who are mostly in Vietnam. Veteran VC Arjun Gupta recently became chairman and even though it has raised just $1.8m so far, now that the company is up and running Cohen could well go to a venture partner for a sizeable slice of cash to enable the next wave.

“We’re building customer success,” he says. “In the next six months with the right venture partner we could turn this into a billion-dollar company.”

 

Also read:
InsideSales might be brightest of Salesforce alumni
Salesforce dynasty yields startups

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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Editorial Consultant for IDG Connect

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