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Building a Start-Up? CircuitHub’s Head of Sales Oliver Williamson Talks About Success and the Early Days.
Entering an over saturated market is difficult (maybe even impossible) so finding a way to uniquely introduce your product and build sales is challenging, but the team at CircuitHub seem to have found their successful entry point into the market.
CircuitHub is the first automated electronics factory built around a modern tech stack. They help hardware companies producing self driving cars, satellites, 3D printers, robotics, and more to rapidly prototype electronics and get to market faster. The idea for CircuitHub came as a result of the frustrations the founders experienced dealing with traditional contract manufacturers. They developed a method using software and automation to get boards into engineers hands much quicker and expeditiously with fewer errors.
Located in the United Kingdom, and because Oliver Williamson was a fan of the podcast, he didn’t mind the time difference, late hour taking questions from co-host Collin Stewart from across the pond. After Colin welcomed Oliver to the show, he asked him to share his sales journey with the audience.
They’re Not Taking a New Product to Market
Starting his career in the financial services market, Oliver advanced from sales to senior team leader and sales manager. Working with seed stage start-ups through development stage, he gained years of experience before he joined CircuitHub where he’s spent the last couple years developing a “cool” new way to expose the company to an already established market.
Rather than taking the “new-product” journey in the interview I wanted to know more about the early days and introduce the audience to Oliver’s sales team, so I asked: how he came to CircuitHub, how he built out his sales team and how that team evolved.
I made a decision … I was looking for a new role. I was pretty granular about what I was looking for in my next position. Obviously, when you build up 10 to 15 years of experience you know what you like…
Oliver explained much of his strategy was formed after reading “What Color is Your Parachute” which helped with his career goals. Being a fan of the Predictable Revenue’s Podcast — a meaningful plug, thanks Oliver — after laying out his plan and reaching out to several companies, he singled out the one that most reflected his professional interests. He met with the founder of CircuitHub and discovered his “why” aligned with the CEO’s “why.” After a few discussions, he discovered leading CircuitHub’s start-up sales team was his dream job.
What became clear from the beginning of our discussion, was the importance of unraveling Oliver’s sales strategy. Knowing that they were in a big market, they decided early on they needed to go about things differently. Rather than the team’s first touch being with a decision maker or influencer, they found better success at the engineer level. His strategy was to focus directly on the engineer’s pain point in the product development stage. After several attempts at utilizing different media channels, the team — which consisted of himself and an account executive — determined utilizing email campaigns to cast a wide net brought the best results. This new way of selling generated revenue for the company quickly.
Why Their Strategy Worked
Since there was little market risk, the world needs circuit boards, the struggle was finding an alternate method for breaking into the market. CircuitHub’s advantage being their ability to get to the magic moment of sales, the “aha moment” quicker than their competitors. With their competitors there’s a “huge” design process and a “huge”manufacturing process which comes with a “huge” cost attached to the process. CircuitHub allows customers to get the circuit board running and out to market much quicker, and with a lower cost.
They found the sales process to be lengthy. With the ground breaking software that allows the potential customer to directly communicate their needs is a much quicker transition to closing the sale.
Time to Scale – The Next Hire
In a rather short period Oliver found it necessary to scale the sales team. The company’s hiring strategy was to build out the SDR/AM structure. This allowed the team to solely focus on outbound prospecting, outreach and lead qualification.
The advantage using CircuitHub’s sales approach allowed the manufacturing process to move much quicker. The results from the low cost low yield strategy of email marketing was in Oliver’s words “growing heavily.” Despite their rapid growth, the sales team is continuing to figure out the best methods to the move the company ahead.
Right now, we have a volume sales based model…and every week, I’m on-boarding a new person, or two new people….
In Oliver’s view the future is exciting. He knows they will need to optimize the conversion rate and aggressively add a multi level, multi channel approach to their marketing efforts, but for now, their discovery stage is low cost and revenue is growing. Oliver describes his team consisting of “hunters” (aka SDRs) that will keep growing until the company reaches global coverage.
I was curious about how Oliver figured out who to target. I asked….
Who are you going after, and what did you say to them?
In other words, I wanted to know how Oliver reached out to CircuitHub’s target audience. Besides their unique sales strategy, and the early stage “fuzziness” I wanted to know when a solid sales generating strategy went into place.
Oliver couldn’t pinpoint any unique strategy, but figuring out “who do I speak to” and who would use our product were the main questions used to identify the person who would best use their circuit boards. They established that by using keyword research on LinkedIn would lead the team to find early adopters. Once located, they decided to approach the prospect by utilizing a solid email campaign. Again, Oliver doesn’t believe in “magic bullets” but rather they needed to come up with a reliable sales email. A strong subject line and intriguing opening line in the introductory email brought the desired results. More importantly, he advised they presented their product clearly and concisely and by offering a low commitment CTA led to a good response rate. After a series of trial and error and A/B testing to make sure the email content was optimized, Oliver explained that was how the core sales approach was formed.
Finally, fast forwarding to how the squad at CircuitHub evolved, I asked what the team composition looks like today. Oliver’s team analyzes what works and continues to improve their methods.
Comprising now of SDRs, and account managers… we got hunters and we got farmers. People don’t like to be called farmers, but I like the analogy. We will keep growing that function until we’ve got global coverage.
For the full Podcast and more on CircutHub’s perspective on building a successful sales team and his plans for the next year, check out the rest of the interview on The Predictable Revenue Podcast.