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July 2nd, 2024

From Problem to Product: Sujan Patel's Path to Mailshake

  1. From Problem to Product: Sujan Patel's Path to Mailshake 39:19

In 2015, Sujan Patel faced a common frustration: sales teams failing to follow up with prospects. His solution? Build a tool so effective that it turned into a successful company, Mailshake.

In this episode, Alice Heiman talks with Sujan Patel, co-founder of Mailshake, about his journey from solving his own sales problems to building a successful bootstrapped company. Sujan shares valuable lessons learned over the past ten years.

Here’s what you’ll discover:

  • How Sujan transitioned from marketing to sales and founded Mailshake.
  • The importance of pivoting and targeting the right audience.
  • Building a community early for success
  • The benefits of product-led growth.
  • Advice for CEOs on staying focused and differentiating in a crowded market.

A Problem-Solver’s Beginning

Sujan Patel, co-founder of Mailshake, didn’t initially set out to create a sales engagement platform. As a VP of Marketing at a SaaS company, he discovered a significant gap in sales follow-up and engagement. “I needed a simple tool to make sure the sales team follows up. Humans, step aside; software, let’s go solve this problem,” Sujan recalls. His background in marketing led him to develop Mailshake to address his own sales challenges. “I took over the sales team with no real background in sales,” Sujan shares. He realized that effective follow-up and engagement were missing, prompting him to create a solution.

Building a Community

Initially targeting marketers, Sujan quickly realized that salespeople were the primary users who benefited most from Mailshake. “We changed all of our branding and copy to focus specifically on the sales use case,” Sujan explains. This pivot was crucial for the company’s growth and product-market fit. His strategy involved building a community and sharing his journey with potential customers. “I built about a 50,000-person email list and updated them weekly on my journey,” he says. This approach not only created early traction but also fostered a sense of involvement among his audience.

Scaling the Sales Organization

As Mailshake grew, Sujan transitioned from handling sales himself to building a sales team. “I hired a sales assist first, which effectively doubled our conversion rate,” he notes. This move allowed him to focus on the company’s vision while ensuring that customers received the support they needed. Mailshake’s product-led growth strategy enabled them to scale without a massive sales team. “We went from a team of 15 sales reps to a lean, mean five people,” Sujan highlights. By focusing on simplicity and ease of use, Mailshake maintained high customer satisfaction and retention.

Sujan’s Advice for CEOs

Sujan emphasizes the importance of knowing your differentiator in a crowded market. “You need to have one thing that is your differentiator or what you’re amazing at,” he advises. By staying focused on their strengths and continuously improving their product, Mailshake continues to thrive.

Action Steps for CEOs

  • Understand Your Market: Regularly reassess your target audience and be willing to pivot based on feedback and market demand.
  • Leverage Community Building: Engage with your potential customers early and often. Building a community can create loyal advocates and provide valuable insights.
  • Invest in Product-Led Growth: Focus on making your product so good that it sells itself. Simplify the user experience and provide clear value.
  • Scale Thoughtfully: Grow your team and processes in response to demand. Ensure each addition to your team aligns with your strategic goals.

Sujan Patel’s journey with Mailshake highlights the power of innovation driven by personal frustration and a deep understanding of market needs. To learn more about his strategies and insights, watch the full episode of Sales Talk for CEOs below.

Episode Details

Chapters

01:00 Introduction & Background

02:17 The Origin of Mailshake

06:55 Bootstrapping & Finding Product-Market Fit

10:03 Early Growth Strategies

15:09 Transitioning to Sales-Led Growth

18:25 Challenges in Outbound Sales

22:02 Focusing on Specific Verticals

25:04 Current Organizational Structure

29:27 Product-Led Growth and AI Integration

36:06 Recommendations for CEOs

39:34 Conclusion & Final Thoughts

About Guest

Sujan Patel is the co-founder of Mailshake, a sales engagement software used by 62,000 sales and marketing professionals. He also owns 4 other SaaS companies under Ramp Ventures. Sujan has over 20 years of marketing experience and has led the digital marketing strategy for companies like Salesforce, Mint, Cafepress and many other Fortune 500 caliber companies.

Social Links 

Check out Sujan’s website: https://mailshake.com/

Connect with Sujan on LinkedIn: (35) Sujan Patel | LinkedIn

Check out Alice’s website: Alice Heiman | Sales Consultant and Strategist for CEOs

Connect with Alice on LinkedIn: (35) Alice Heiman | LinkedIn

Alice Heiman Chief Sales Energizer and Podcast Host
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