Cameron Weeks | Crain's Indianapolis

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Cameron Weeks

Background:  

Cameron Weeks, a native of Central Indiana, is CEO of Sharpen Technologies of Indianapolis. While studying at Purdue University, Weeks co-founded Fathom Voice, the company that became Sharpen, a contact center platform for frontline customer service agents, in his dorm room in 2007. Over the past decade, Weeks and Executive Vice President Bracken Fields have grown Sharpen into a international platform available in 13 regions across the globe. The company’s voice-over-Internet call ratings have averaged a score of 4.4 out of 4.5 during 2017.

The Mistake:

I had resistance to enterprise sales and the overall expense they require. I thought there must be a cheaper or less expensive way to do enterprise sales.

Unfortunately, there are barriers to entry that are required as part of the enterprise sales model. We tried to bring a small-business sales model into enterprise sales. We forced simply one person to play all the roles, instead of breaking up the process into demoing, prospecting, contacting management and so on. We did it as a cost-saving mechanism.

But there is a reason things within enterprise sales exist and are done a certain way. The engineering side of me said, “Screw the norm. Let’s do it a different way.” I painfully learned that with enterprise sales you are not able to simply say, “Let’s not do it the way it’s always been done.”

When you have a great product but sales and marketing are out of alignment, you find out what happens when you fix that.

The Lesson:

You can incur a larger cost for the acquisition of larger customers, as long as a lifetime value is in the proposition. I wish people had taught me or showed me that early on. It’s OK to spend relatively large amounts of money because this customer is going to stay with us for many years to come. I wish I had focused more on the rationale than the dollars. I had to manage cash flow. We were limited to a cap.

You have to make sure you’re in alignment with what the rest of the market is doing and what is expected for the type of market you’re trying to go after. This year we were able to do that when we applied the proper resources to the sales process. When you have a great product but sales and marketing are out of alignment, you find out what happens when you fix that.

During 2017 we moved up our average contract value by 930 percent. There was a significant raise across the organization. It was not a different product. It was just unlocking the marketing potential that had been misaligned.

In 2018 we’re going to keep what we’re doing in place. We’re going to double-down what we learned in 2017. We look at 2017 as running a simulation making investments in sales and marketing and seeing outcomes, so we can be successful in the future and focus on each key metric -- and so we can prove we’re going forward and increase our investments.

We’re doubling our investments in sales and marketing in 2018. We’ll push harder on the process we believe we have successfully built around sales and marketing strategies and processes.

Follow Sharpen Techonologies on Twitter at @sharpentech.

Pictured is Cameron Weeks. | Photo is courtesy of Sharpen Technologies.