I spoke with Will Dinkel, CEO and Co-Founder of Nova an early stage company.
I’ve known Will since around his first sale as an early stage tech founder and I recently got in touch with him to learn more about his approach to moving up market, pricing and scaling his B2B SaaS team.
Nova is a platform for outbound sales giving companies smarter, faster, better ways to accelerate sales & increase revenue. Check out nova.ai for more information.
Will, what led you to starting Nova?
Working with Cloudflare and having experience working in enterprise sales meant I saw the room for improvement and efficiency. There were clear avenues in emerging software — for example, AI and machine learning — to help sales teams increase productivity.
Companies spend a lot on sales and, historically, the emphasis has been on bodies and numbers ofboots on the ground. At Cloudflare, I was building a lot and experimenting, there was clear scientific research about improving efficiencies and strategies for improving results. Nova became a way to standardize and scale this software to be track able and measured.
Most memorable advice you have been given?
I once received some very good advice from Larry Bohn, Managing Director at General Catalyst (where I served as an EIR). He said to, “make something you know people want that you’re not sure you can build, rather than something you know you can build and are not sure people want.” It makes sense, as the market demand determines so much of a company’s eventual potential.
Most challenging aspect of your work?
Startups are noisy. There are constantly ups and downs.
To counter this, you need to find ways early on to balance out the day to day fluctuations both from a mindset and leadership perspective. You need to learn to be comfortable working aggressively towards an outcome where there is uncertainty. Learn how to manage your own processes to address the areas that are challenging you.
How do you approach moving up market?
It’s hard to sell a large company rather than a small. There is a notion of 6 month sales cycles and it’s hard for anyone to fathom this if they haven’t been intimately involved in the process. It can be really challenging to move up market and this is true for all startups. I approach it by trying to get enterprise sales expertise, which is hard. Start with an adviser if you cannot get someone in your founding team.
I think about the complexities and duration of the sale on contract side. It is a big mistake to hire sales reps for small deals that require a lot of work — that’s really hard to be efficient. Companies need to self service and have accounting execs finely tuned to this — if you don’t think this through you can get too far down the road before you realize there’s nowhere to grow or successfully scale from. I’ve always thought about pricing in the same way — know yourself, know your product and know where you are in the market. What is the ideal motion for sales and growth at each stage of this?
How do you scale your team?
I scale with the natural milestones in the developmental course of a company. It starts with the product, spending time with the customer and building a notion of what you want to bring to the market. When you feel like you’ve made this into a repeatable process is when you should scale. In addition to this, make sure you have employees that are good communicators. The shorter the distance between the customer and the hands building the product the more efficient that it will be.
Realist or optimist?
I believe in people. When a person sets out to achieve, is passionate and diligent then they can be amazing. The hard thing is doing that over a long period of time during all those ups and downs. So in theory, I’m an optimist that believes in the potential of people to do that and the realism comes in to be prepared and conscious of that process.
Hi! Thanks for reading. I’m Theron, a founder, investor, and past banker. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some great companies and brands like Pivotal Software and Silicon Valley Bank. I’ve also helped Forum Ventures build their programming and have been an operator & LP in the fund.