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Scaling Up a Sales Team: ScaleUp Academy Podcast Recap

On Monday 12 November 2018, Cognism’s VP of Sales, Nazma Qurban, took part in ScaleUp Academy’s ScaleUp Heroes podcast.

ScaleUp Academy is an online platform for business leaders to share their advice and experience in growing companies from the ground up. Recently recognised as one of the “Top Women Leaders in SaaS of 2018” by The Saas Report, Nazma took time out of her busy diary to share her considerable knowledge and expertise.

Hosted by Ryan Foland, Managing Partner at Influence Tree (a company that provides education and training on how to grow your personal or business brand), the topic under discussion was “Scaling Up a Sales Team.”As Nazma joined Cognism as its first employee and salesperson, and has since built a predictable revenue process and successful B2B sales team from scratch, she was well-placed to participate in this insightful and educational talk.

Key Takeaways

1 - Hire the right people

The key to scaling a sales team is finding the right hires. Nazma’s top tip for sales recruitment is to create a persona of your ideal employee, just as you would for a buyer or customer.

The persona should include all the qualities and attributes you’re looking for in your sales team (e.g., ambition, positivity, energy, resilience).

Use your employee persona during your interviews. Don’t deviate from it - when scaling a B2B sales team, it’s important to bring in the right people from the very beginning.

Remember that for most of your prospects and customers, your salespeople are the first interactions they will have with your company. They must represent your brand as well as book meetings and close deals.

2 - Create the right structure

Just as important as finding the right people is creating the right structure, to empower your team and assist in their personal growth. At Cognism, the sales function is split between Sales Development and Business Development roles. New hires start out as Sales Development Representatives (SDRs), whose sole mission to book meetings with prospects.

Once an SDR exceeds his or her target, an opportunity opens up for them to be promoted to Business Development Manager (BDM). BDMs have revenue targets rather than meetings booked targets.

This system of hiring internally ensures that all members of the sales team are fully educated in the product. It also creates an appreciation for each other’s work; a BDM knows how difficult an SDRs job can be because they’ve done that job before.

This helps to forge an even closer bond between your sales team members, and makes sure that everyone is working towards the same goal.

3 - Use an outbound process

Nazma’s advice to new businesses scaling up is to use an outbound lead generation process. When a company starts out, no-one knows who you are. Your product might be super-innovative, but there’s no awareness of your brand.

Outbound is crucial to revenue generation and scaling up. It’s a proactive approach that involves reaching out to prospects, rather than waiting for the business to come to you. Without huge branding or marketing budgets to generate inbound leads, a company that wants to scale up fast would find outbound to be the best sales process for them.

Cognism has used its own technology to scale up. Cognism Prospector provides companies working B2B with access to a unique data set of over 400 million business professionals, making the process of B2B lead generation fast and easy. It streamlines and automates outreach, meaning that Cognism’s sales team is able to contact a large number of prospects in a short space of time.

Cognism has helped many start-up and scale-up companies find their target audience and save time on tedious manual tasks. To find out what Cognism can do for your business, be sure to register for a demo!

4 - Define goals and metrics

As a business scales up, it can sometimes lose sight of its main purpose and goal. Nazma’s idea to help you avoid this is to make sure you clearly define your business goals and metrics, and stick to them.

While corporate or enterprise companies may review their revenue statistics on a monthly or quarterly basis, for a scale-up company it’s best to do this weekly. Doing this will help you to quickly identify where any shortfalls are and correct them.

It’s also important to define the messages that your sales team will use in their pitches and cold calls. Working in conjunction with your marketing team (if you have one!), think of three key soundbites about your product or service. The soundbites should show the value of what you’re selling, and the good it can do for your B2B prospecting. Get your team to use these soundbites in their conversations.

Working alongside marketing in this way has two major benefits: it creates alignment between the two teams and means that your business develops with a unified brand voice.

5 - Build the right culture

If you’ve done steps 1 to 4, then you should have a high-performing sales team in place. But how do you attract and retain top talent? Nazma has several suggestions to help you do this.

First, work hard to build a friendly and supportive culture. Coming in to work every day should be enjoyable for all your employees. For new recruits, talk to them about how to align your business goals with their personal goals. Where do they want to be in three to five years time, and how can the company help them to achieve this?

Hold monthly one-to-one meetings with all your staff. Discuss their results and goals for the future. If needed, suggest any extra coaching or training opportunities. On the other end of the scale, don’t forget to celebrate your wins! At Cognism, the whole team celebrates if an SDR books a meeting or a BDM closes a deal. It’s a great way to make individuals feel valued.

Activities outside of work are also valuable. Support your employees in their personal brand development. Encourage them to attend industry events, network with peers, post articles on LinkedIn and guest on podcasts! Not only does this showcase your team’s talent and experience, it’s also free promotion for your business or brand. Leads can be generated off the back of these extra-curricular pursuits!


So that was Cognism’s contribution to the ScaleUp Heroes podcast. 

You haven’t heard the last of us, though! Cognism will be taking part in other podcasts in the very near future - follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter for more details.

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