saas.unbound is a podcast for and about founders who are working on scaling inspiring products that people love, brought to you by, a serial acquirer of B2B SaaS companies.

In episode #25, Anna Nadeina talks with Frank, co-Founder & CEO of Salesforge, an AI-powered all-inclusive sales application that helps sales teams achieve their goals.


Solving the Problem of Email Deliverability

At the heart of Frank’s venture, Salesforge, lies a critical problem that many sales teams face: email deliverability. As email remains the largest channel in B2B sales, the likelihood of emails reaching the primary inbox of prospects has steadily declined over time. This challenge is driven by several factors, including the increasing volume of emails being sent, the presence of bad actors in the email ecosystem, and the evolving restrictions implemented by major email service providers like Outlook and Gmail.

Recognizing the complexity of this issue, Frank and his co-founders decided to focus their efforts on fully addressing the email deliverability problem before expanding into other sales channels. They understood that this challenge was not just the responsibility of the client or user, but rather, it was their own accountability to ensure the successful delivery of emails on behalf of their customers.

By taking ownership of this problem and implementing various strategies to improve email deliverability, Salesforge has been able to achieve remarkable growth, reaching $1 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR) within just nine months and with a team of only four people.


The Importance of Personalization and Relevance

While addressing the technical aspects of email deliverability is crucial, Frank emphasizes the importance of personalization and relevance in crafting effective sales outreach. He has observed that many sales tools and solutions often fall short in this area, resulting in frustrating experiences for the recipients of these emails.

To ensure that Salesforge’s outreach efforts are well-received, the team places a strong emphasis on data quality and cleanliness. They recognize that even a single mistake in a prospect’s name or company information can significantly impact the success of an email campaign. By leveraging tools like OpenAI’s APIs, Salesforge helps its customers validate and maintain the integrity of their data, reducing the risk of sending emails with incorrect information.

Additionally, Frank advises founders to actively seek feedback from their customers on where they heard about the product. This qualitative data provides invaluable insights into the most effective growth channels, allowing Salesforge to double down on the strategies that are truly resonating with their target audience.


Growth Strategies: Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Salesforge’s rapid growth has been largely driven by a focus on word-of-mouth marketing. By prioritizing the successful delivery of emails and ensuring a positive experience for their customers, Salesforge has leveraged the power of referrals and community-driven growth.

Frank emphasizes the importance of actively seeking customer feedback, not just relying on traditional analytics tools like Google Analytics. By directly asking customers where they heard about Salesforge, the team was able to uncover the significant impact of word-of-mouth, which often goes undetected in standard data sources.

To further amplify this word-of-mouth effect, Salesforge has created its own Slack community, allowing users to connect with each other and share their experiences. This community-building approach not only fosters a sense of belonging but also provides valuable insights that inform the company’s product development and growth strategies.


Choosing the Right Investors and the Challenges of Fundraising

Despite Salesforge’s impressive early success, Frank and his co-founders recognized the potential to accelerate their growth even further by pursuing venture capital funding. However, the decision to go the VC route was not an easy one, as they weighed the pros and cons of bootstrapping versus seeking external investment.

The key factor that ultimately led them to pursue VC funding was the desire to build a $100 million business rather than a $20 million bootstrapped venture. This ambition required access to more capital, which the VC route could provide.

The fundraising process itself was not without its challenges. Frank and his team faced rejection from numerous VCs, primarily due to the highly competitive nature of the sales technology space and the fact that they were first-time founders. 


The Importance of Having the Right Co-founders

One of the key factors that Frank attributes to Salesforge’s success is the strength of the co-founding team. He emphasizes that the co-founders are the biggest “win” in the journey from zero to one, as they will be the ones who will navigate the ups and downs of building a business together.

Frank’s co-founders bring complementary skill sets to the table, with one specializing in back-end engineering and the other in front-end development. This allows Frank, as the sales and domain expert, to focus on driving customer acquisition and product development based on user feedback, while the engineering team brings the technical expertise to build a robust and scalable platform.

The ability to work through the inevitable challenges and challenges that arise in a startup’s early days is crucial, and Frank credits the cohesion and trust within the Salesforge co-founding team as a key factor in their success so far.


The Failure of Not Hiring Fast Enough

While Salesforge has achieved remarkable growth, Frank acknowledges that one of the biggest failures they’ve experienced is not hiring fast enough to keep up with the pace of their customer onboarding and support demands.

As the company rapidly acquired new customers, the existing team found themselves overwhelmed, working long hours to service the influx of new users. This experience taught Frank the importance of anticipating future growth and proactively hiring the necessary talent to support that expansion.

Frank emphasizes the need to constantly assess the team’s capacity and forecasted workload, and to make hiring decisions accordingly. By not moving quickly enough to bring on additional resources, Salesforge found itself in a position where it was struggling to maintain the high level of customer service and support that had been a key driver of their success.


Crafting Winning Cold Emails: Sell the Problem, Not the Solution

Given Salesforge’s focus on email deliverability, Frank has a wealth of experience in crafting effective cold email outreach. He advises founders to shift their mindset from selling the solution to selling the problem.

The key, according to Frank, is to start the conversation by highlighting the prospect’s pain points, rather than immediately pitching the product. By validating the problem and demonstrating an understanding of the prospect’s challenges, the email establishes relevance and opens the door for a meaningful dialogue.

Frank recommends a three-email sequence, where the first email focuses solely on the problem, the second email introduces the solution, and the third email explores whether the prospect is the right decision-maker or if there is someone else who should be involved. This approach not only improves the likelihood of a response but also helps maintain email deliverability by avoiding the pitfalls of overly aggressive outreach.

Additionally, Frank emphasizes the importance of timing and frequency, suggesting that three emails are typically sufficient, with the possibility of a follow-up after a quarter, rather than bombarding prospects with numerous emails. This strategy balances the need for persistence with the realities of email deliverability and the recipient’s time constraints.

By mastering the art of crafting winning cold emails, Salesforge has been able to drive significant growth and customer acquisition, leveraging their deep understanding of the sales technology landscape and the challenges faced by their target audience.

Head of Growth,