How to sales hack your startup growth to $10M

How to sales hack your startup growth to $10M

Growth. It’s what keeps every entrepreneur up at night. What experiments should I run? Is my hypothesis correct? Should I focus on sales or marketing? And that’s just the beginning. That’s why I want to share our sales hacking secrets that grew my last startup from zero to millions of dollars in revenue.

Sales Hacking refers to strategies or techniques used to optimize a sales process or salesperson’s time. It is sometimes also referred to as Lead Hacking. In a sentence: "Barb sales hacked her way into the most closed leads this week by using Tristan’s Sales Hacking Resource Guide.”

Sales Hacking is similar to growth hacking in that it takes a business activity and finds ways to 10X or 100X your efforts. You test different aspects of the sales process manually and then look at automation tactics to grow exponentially.

We did this for a few reasons:

  1. Reduce growth costs. Sales automation can be very cost effective for early-stage startups.

  2. Fast lead generation. We built lead lists for the entire industry we worked in.

  3. Large outreach scale. We were able to make one salesperson extremely efficient by focusing them only on closing deals.

We were able to effectively use a self-built sales hacking process from pre-seed to post-Series A to mass email hundreds of thousands of leads generating tens of millions of dollars in revenue.

So, how did we do it? Let’s break it down step by step.

  • Step 1: Define targets

  • Step 2: Find lead sources

  • Step 3: Gather data

  • Step 4: Clean data

  • Step 5: Send emails

  • Step 6: Follow up

At first look, it seems to be a fairly simple process, but at its peak, we had over 20 virtual assistants in the Philippines working around the clock gathering, cleaning, and emailing thousands of people with varying levels of sales automation.

So, let’s look closer at the secret sauce behind each step.

Step 1: Define your target customers

There are a variety of ways to define your customer segments. You can use customer personas, you can analyze your own customer data, you can look at industry trends, and on and on. Overall, you are defining your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). Doing this will make sure you are doing all this work for the right leads.

For example, you may be trying to reach SMB retail businesses that focus on fashion and are based in New York City making around $1M-$10M in revenue per year. This could be your ICP.

Overall, think about these factors when it comes to the businesses you are targeting:

  • Industry or vertical

  • Employee headcount (company wide, but you can also consider within key departments)

  • Annual revenue

  • Budget

  • Geography

You can also consider the technology your target customer uses, the size of their customer base, and their level of organizational or technological maturity.

If you need help focusing on the right customer ask yourself some questions:

  • Who are my best customers today?

  • Are they my ideal customers?

  • Who pays the most for my services?

  • In a perfect world, who would my customers be?

  • Who is the gatekeeper at my target companies?

  • What’s their title and role?

If you’ve been able to answer these questions, now ask yourself: How do I reach them? And that brings us to the next step. Building a list of contacts you can email, call, text, or reach out to in the most relevant way depending on how business is done in your industry and location.

Step 2: Find out where your customers hang out online

The next step to preparing your sales hacking process is to build a list of target sites and data that you can utilize to start your outreach. The method of communication can vary from SMS to cold calling, but for this example, I’ll focus more on emailing since it is the most scalable as your outreach grows.

Find websites, lists and other data sources that match your target customer. This could be a blog post that lists the Top 100 New Consumer Tech Companies of 2019 or a public company database like Crunchbase. From there you can start adding URLs to a Google Sheet and label it Data Sources. This is where you’ll put your target links to gather data from once you get your sales hacking process up and running.

There are of course other ways to build lead lists from marketing strategies to list buying (think ZoomInfo, ZenProspect, Leads411, and Dun & Bradstreet) to using custom data tools like Growbots, LeadGenius or Cience. Sales hacking tends to run as one of the lower cost tools as it’s built internally and the work can be outsourced.

Step 3: Gather the data and start building lists

Now that you know both who you want to reach and where their information resides online, it’s time to start building lists. This is the lead generation component of a complete sales hacking process.

You’ll need to do three things:

  1. Hire 3-5 virtual assistants to do the data gathering from a site like UpWork.

  2. Crawling or scraping software like

  3. Create extremely clear instructions of what you want.

There are different ways to go about gathering the data, but in short, you can either do it manually with a virtual assistant ($3-$7 per hour) or you can hire someone who already knows how to crawl and scrape websites ($7-$25 per hour). In our case, we did both and also trained some of our virtual assistants to use, a data scraping tool for non-technical people. Here’s how.

Once you let your virtual assistants (or VAs for short) loose on the data, you’ll want to track their progress against each other. That’s why you want more than one data gatherer working at the same time. It’s similar to sales development representatives (SDRs) competing against each other on a sales team and a sales manager tracking who brings in the most deals.

To make it simple, you can track the number of leads each VA is able to gather per hour on average. That will give you a gauge on who your top performers are and who do you need to replace. It’s easy to do this in a Google Sheet as well. Keep the tech simple at first and don’t overcomplicate things until you’ve nailed the process and are ready to scale up.

Finally, and most importantly, you need to write very straightforward instructions of what you want your newly hired VAs to do. Imagine you just hired someone to do a job without telling them what you needed from them. This part is essential to get right so that you get the data you need the first time around.

A simple example of this would be:

  1. Go to

  2. Search for CTOs under People.

  3. Filter by San Francisco, Hong Kong, Taipei, and Singapore.

  4. Gather First Name/Last Name/Email/Title/Company Name/Company Website into a Google spreadsheet.

  5. Do 15 leads and then ping me for a quality check.

  6. Then build a list of 100 leads.

  7. Complete in three days by April 17.

You can also use Loom or another screen recording software to walk your VAs through the steps necessary to gather your data.

Like most good sales process leaders, you do it first to understand the complications of it before assigning it to someone else. Being this specific is necessary in order to produce the exact results you want in the shortest time frame possible with the smallest budget.

Regardless, even after perfectly detailing the data you need, there will be some parts of the data that may be hard to find. Sometimes you may be missing emails intermittently or now you want to add phone numbers. That’s where Step 4 comes in.

Step 4: Clean and enrich the data you gathered

This step is the most straightforward. You have data, but you want to make sure it’s accurate and complete. It’s not necessary to have perfect data, but as you grow your sales hacking process it becomes more and more important. Lead enrichment tools like Clearbit, Lusha, and Leadspace are one way to do this, but they also come at a cost.

There are more basic, lower cost options that can check emails like NeverBounce and CitationLabs (what we used). Always do at least a basic spot check on your data and emails before sending. You want to make sure you aren’t butchering someone's name or getting a high percentage of bouncebacks.

Step 5: Blast out personalized emails

Now the time has come. It’s time to send your first mass personalized email. The moment of truth, we call it. This part can be the most time consuming and complex. Writing the best subject line and body copy isn’t easy. You need to catch the reader’s attention without looking spammy. You need to be helpful while still having some type of call to action. The first email you send may fail, so you need to be A/B testing different copy and subject lines. There’s a lot to think about.

In short, here are the main components you need to think about in order to go about your email blasting in a smart and customized way.

  • Dynamic Fields — Use customizable fields like {Name} and {Company Name} to personalize the email content and make it feel like a direct, one-to-one email.

  • Email Subject Line — Make it feel like a human to human interaction. Not marketing.

  • Email Body Copy — Again, speak to the person you are emailing like a friend, not a robot.

  • Tracked Links — Monitor every aspect of your campaign in order to iterate and improve.

  • Call to Action (CTA) — Have 1-3 CTAs in your email, as well as asking for a simple email reply.

  • A/B Testing — Test different subject lines and messages to see how they perform. You should always be improving your open and click-through rates.

  • Drip Emails — If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again. Having 1-3 drip emails will not let a first email go alone. Everyone is busy, so make sure your message gets read.

  • Unsubscribe — That said, if someone doesn’t want to hear from you, unsubscribe them and move on. Don’t be bothersome.

  • Test Send — You wouldn’t send an email to 1,000 people without sending a test email to yourself at least a few times, right?

Here’s an example of one of the emails I wrote for our campaigns:

Subject Line: Love your brand!


Hey - I love your brand!

I came across your Shopify store ( after reading the Pop Up Stores 101 blog post on Shopify's blog.

I was wondering if you ever do offline events like pop-up shops? I'd love to check your brand out in person.

A couple of thoughts that might help:

> This pop-up market looks like a cool opportunity: Pop Co-Op in NYC.

> And if you want to learn more about opening pop-up shops: Ultimate Guide to Opening a Pop-Up Shop.



Tristan Pollock

Co-Founder at Storefront

Step 6: Follow up and follow through

Now that you’ve put in all this work, don’t forget to follow up. If you don’t receive a reply or desired action from the first email you send, you should follow up one or two times more in order to make sure the lead is truly not interested in your offer. Outreach or Tout (what we used) are popular tools to organize this entire flow.


Tristan Pollock is a tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist who has spent time on both sides of the table. On one side he’s build and sold two startups. On the other, he’s invested over $30M in venture capital on behalf of 500 Startups and coached over 300 startup founders. Read his latest musings on Medium or Twitter, or follow along on his sabbatimoon around the world on Instagram.

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