Start-ups don’t necessarily need to employ local salespeople when entering new markets because satisfied customers will often act as unofficial brand ambassadors, a global sales expert says.
David Obrand is the vice president of global sales at Yammer, a US-based enterprise social network service launched in September 2008. It enables employees to connect and collaborate.
Users are able to discuss, update and share what they are working on with one another under a private, secure network dedicated to their company.
Yammer has more than four million users in 221 countries. There are more than 200,000 organisations with Yammer networks, including Deloitte, NAB and Westfield.
Last year was a big year for Yammer as it tripled staff, sales and users. Part of this expansion was the establishment of the company’s Australian operations.
Yammer has seven employees in its Melbourne office and one in Sydney, but is expecting to triple that number by November. According to Obrand, Australia is a “fascinating” market.
“Australia, as a market, has always been an early adopter of internet technology,” Obrand told StartupSmart.
“The average person spends between 17 and 19 hours a month on the internet, seven hours a month on social media, and is highly mobile.”
However, Obrand points out that Yammer initially didn’t employ any local salespeople when it entered the Australian market, saying the strength of its service was enough.
“We are incredibly blessed to have a highly passionate customer who does a lot of our work for us… For example, we have no salespeople in the Netherlands, yet 1% of the entire population are active Yammer users,” he says.
“That happens because customers love the service and they tell their friends.”
“We truly leverage our own technology to enable that through the Yammer customer network, where customers can congregate together and share best practices.”
According to Obrand, the best way for a company to innovate is to “give all of your customers a voice and allow them to sing from the rooftops”.
However, he says start-ups shouldn’t get caught up in customer acquisition, saying it is just as important to retain existing customers, particularly when seeking funding.
“It doesn’t matter how fast you grow. If you can’t retain those customers, you’ll never be able to double or triple your figures,” he says.
“The biggest thing is to listen [to your customers]. One of the great things about Yammer is that it gives everyone… a voice, and a voice that is heard.”
Yammer recently closed an $85 million funding round led by DFJ Growth Fund. Again, Obrand says it all comes back to the customer.
“We’re adding 250,000 new users every month to the service [and] 2000 new networks every week,” he says.
“When VCs see that, and they see the incredible renewal rate we have on these contracts, that gives them great confidence in the long-term.”