Samir: Conferences can accomplish more than remote work in months
It's been almost a year since Samir joined Sudolabs as our Strategic Partnerships Manager. We recently caught up with him to chat about what he's been up to and get the scoop on his day-to-day agenda, working with US startups and exploring how attending conferences has become a crucial part of his role.
How did you become a part of Sudolabs' team and what is your position?
There's a story behind this, of course. (laughs) One day, my friends and I were having a beer together and Tomáš Kačírek (Product Manager at Sudolabs) was also there. When he started talking about his job, startups, and how clients raise money, it got my attention. At that time, I worked for an IT company. However, I was looking for more opportunities, a better work environment and Sudolabs sounded like the right fit. I jumped at the chance to apply for a sales job when I heard it was open.
So here I am now, working as a Strategic Partnerships Manager. I am responsible for our sales LinkedIn profiles, building relationships with potential clients, building strategies to reach out to investors and startups, preparing sales-marketing materials, and network scanning. I've worked at Sudolabs for almost a year and I love it.
What is your day-to-day agenda like?
The first thing I do is check my emails and LinkedIn profiles (personal and professional) for messages I need to respond to right away. Because I work primarily with US clients, the evenings are usually very busy; campaigns, outreach, and calls to name a few. Taking notes on multiple meetings with investors and founders can also fill my days.
Our sales team meets daily to discuss current sales activities to improve performance. Additionally, we have brainstorming sessions to optimize our activities, plan conferences, and set up processes.
Account management is also a crucial part of my job - keeping the database of our network, keeping an inventory of the people we meet, listing their problems, and offering them the right solutions afterwards. A proper account management process should be continuous, and long-term since it can sometimes take a while for a project to start or to get an introduction to something we're interested in.
Sudolabs builds digital products mainly for US startups. What is the process of finding clients?
Our sales team has resources where potential leads are taken (VCs, start-up founders, investors). It's worth mentioning Crunchbase, which lists many startups. Then we filter out relevant target clients - startups in the pre-seed and seed stages - list and label them in our CRM system and assign tasks.
These resources are complemented by different LinkedIn or email strategies, e.g. A/B/C testing is part of that process. It lets us test out different approaches and collect data that are crucial for us. It also shows that we have connections in the community and partnerships with YC founders or startups funded by Andreessen Horowitz or Sequoia. Providing them with added value is one of the most effective ways to get them to respond.
Your team attends a few conferences a year. Would you say they can be helpful in finding clients?
Attending conferences is an incredibly valuable way of finding clients and developing partnerships. Every year, there are tens of different conferences, tho' about 5-6 of them are relevant to us.
We typically send 2 team members to meet VCs and startup founders there. Making a good impression and earning their trust is our ultimate goal. Once you build a relationship, you can move on to the next steps and show them more (workshops, references, building an MVP). As you know, there are so many agencies and competitors claiming the highest quality service, so we always ask ourselves - "How can we stand out from others?”
It's worth investing time and money in such events. A week at a conference can accomplish what a couple of months remotely do, and this is a huge difference, isn’t it?
What is it like at conferences? Do you prepare before going there?
Our top priority is networking with startup founders and investors. Since there are usually thousands of people and we only get to meet a handful (50-100 at most), pre-conference preparation is key.
It helps that several large and popular conferences have their own apps (e.g. Slush in Helsinki or Collision in Toronto). Before the conference begins, we create a profile, research, find the people we're interested in meeting, connect, and schedule a meeting. Each meeting lasts on average 20-30 minutes.
The other benefit of having a profile is that we'll know who we are meeting with, so we'll be able to prepare more thoroughly. At the end of the day, the more information we have, the more successful the meeting might be.
I would say that the hardest part of our job at a conference (and in general) is meeting people who already raised funding from investors or they just have the budget and they also need development or design (app, MVP, web design etc.). This may sometimes feel like finding unicorns. (haha)
What are your criteria for choosing clients? Is there such a thing as "bad" client?
Early-stage to Series A startups that develop mobile or web apps/products are clients we target and consider interesting to work with. The startup should also plan on raising capital to fund the business operations.
I wouldn't say there is a "bad" client, just not one relevant to us. We see this when clients say that they'd never outsource their product development or when their product is mostly hardware or built using a different technology and can't be rebuilt (we work with React and Node.js at Sudolabs). There also might be a “client” that at the end of the day just doesn’t have enough budget and is not planning to start fundraising.
What happens after you get a lead? What Sudo departments are involved in the process?
I keep the account manager role once I get a lead. When there's an opportunity to continue and our lead's interested in our services, we move on to the product workshop. These workshops can be attended by a tech lead, a product manager, and a sales team.
You're probably wondering what these workshops are about. We have some Q&A for the founders ready (they are usually more technical) - what they need to fix or change, what their MVP should look like, how they'd like to scale their product and so on. Taking this step at the beginning of the project can make the process easier and help the project be launched successfully.
I believe these product workshops are just a few ways we can demonstrate the capabilities of our engineering and product teams.
Is there anything you'd like to pass along to other sales teams?
Startups and the tech industry revolve around relationships that are at the core of everything we do. No matter how good our product or service is, if we don’t know how to approach people and build relationships from the beginning, we will have a hard time. And effective account management enables you to keep these connections alive and build trust.
My last question has nothing to do with sales, but it is a must. What is your guilty pleasure?
Where to start? (laughs). Procrastination. Especially when it comes to small and easy tasks. Ordering takeout. Loud music in the car. And! Scrolling through social media too much.
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