Listen the Story
This inspiring story is of a rising marketing technology startup called Selvery, started by Andrew Pometun from Russia. Selvery is a cloud-based service (SaaS) designed to create and manage segmented selling content. This tool bridges the gap between the product owner and the sales channel and is suitable for those companies with a large sales team working with a large number of products.
The product owner uploads sales content to the app in the form of mosaic pieces. The seller specifies the product, industry, portrait of the interlocutor, or other required parameters, and Selvery generates a presentation prepared specifically for the client with information intended only for them. This is the methodology of ABS – account-based sales, i.e., sales based on customer data. However, to fully formulate such methodology for a standalone application, Andrew Pometun had to test it for 3 years on Sberbank products. Here is the story of Selvery in Andrew’s own words.
Introduce us to the idea of Selvery
A startup starts with hypothesis testing of the problem-solution fit. We did this even before we entered the market. Before launching Selvery, we worked for 3 years at Sberbank on a project that solved a similar problem.
Since 2017, we were an intermediary between product owners and sales channels. And every owner had the same problems in sales communications.
The first problem is a lack of feedback from sales managers and official dealers. The second one is the control of the relevance of advertising, presentation, and sales materials. The third one is the lack of a personal approach to the consumer.
Consumers today want to be treated personally, to be given relevant offers, not “generic” offers. The offer should be consistent with their values. But all consumers are different, and sales presentations are usually created “for everyone.”
Typically, product owners don’t know how the sales team uses sales presentations. With Selvery, presentations are collected on demand by the salesperson “at the moment,” and the platform collects analytics for each sales session.
We didn’t need to test the hypothesis of whether a segmented customer approach would affect sales growth, because we’ve seen clear results of the effectiveness of that approach.
We made a universal product for large corporations. Any startup should try to understand the processes of a large company and solve its problems. This allows you to see other problems and then to find similar pain points in other companies. At Sberbank, I fully formulated the methodology by which Selvery will work in 2020.
What’s your strategy story? What led you to start Selvery?
I’ve been involved in sales management since 2000, when I became head of marketing at a regional printing house. During this time I have worked with all sorts of clients. Usually I am invited to large international companies in order to put things in order with clients.
No matter what company I worked for, I saw the same problems everywhere: people have forgotten how to talk to each other. Of course, most often in business, this is seen in the relationship between salespeople and customers.
To solve the problem of communication, I created an account-based sales platform called Selvery. It helps salespeople to communicate with customers, and it helps the marketer to communicate with salespeople.
What marketing, operation strategies are you adopting at Selvery?
We are not chasing the mass user. In 2021 we plan to begin mass sales of Selvery to everyone who needs to increase corporate sales. We will have prepared as detailed guidelines, instructions, and interactive tips as possible by that time. Still, the mass user is not our goal. By getting one large company as a client, we get dozens, hundreds of users. Moreover, the very principle of Selvery’s work suits the companies with many salespeople who sell to many segments of the target audience.
What is your competitive advantage at Selvery?
There are apps for creating presentations: PowerPoint, Keynote, Google Presentations. There are apps for sharing presentations: file storage, confluence solutions, in-house developments. There are corporate presentation builders, templates. But a solution that combines all of this is still only Selvery, an ABS platform.
Over the past 30 years, systems technology has absorbed the achievements of the past years, becoming a clear and familiar layered phenomenon. Similarly, ABS platforms can evolve into comprehensible and familiar “internal translators,” that is, translators from one language into the same language, but – for a different audience.
In its work, the ABS platform looks to databases of consumer preferences and vendor capabilities. What if you replace a seller with a buyer with, say, a politician and a voter? Or a teacher and a student? Or a doctor and a patient? In essence, we are talking about a new, non-existent class of products for communication between representatives of different segments of the same language environment, ABC platforms, that is, account-based communication platforms.
It is safe to say that ABC will change the landscape of the business environment in 10 years. Will it lead to the disappearance of the WWW, CRM, ABS? Television has not displaced the theater, and marketplaces have not led to the disappearance of the sales profession.
ABC-strategy will take the best of what has already worked out a business around the world to become the new driver of the global economy. The pioneers of which we are today.
Share a story when you have been customer-obsessed
As I said before, we are not chasing the mass user. Believing that Selvery would be useful first and foremost to salespeople, we started with them. But salespeople in big companies told us that their job is to sell and that selling content is the job of marketers.
We went to the marketing specialists, but they said that their task is to do the creative and global advertising campaigns and the sales content; all these presentations are the product owner’s task. On the third attempt, we found the target audience.
We went to the wrong companies, spent time creating promo materials for the wrong target audiences, and applied to the wrong gas pedals. We failed TravelHub, Sanofi, Pepsico, and RITA gas pedals until we started winning. All of this is the natural way of a startup.
Any strategy mistakes you have made and what did you learn?
A startup is a series of failures from which you have to get out. Every unconfirmed hypothesis is a kind of failure that leads to course corrections or steep pivots.
We’ve been wrong many times. We started with an approach to creating presentations that involved managing a small number of interactive slides. But during one of our first pilot projects, the customer asked us to load all the products into the system. We ended up with a huge, sluggish content system, and we had to rework Selvery to find a universal and flexible solution.
Finally what advice do you have for your fellow entrepreneur readers?
The first piece of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs: look for a seasoned specialist, if not on the team, then at least as a consultant. An experienced person in the team is the key to the success of any project. This saves a lot of time because thanks to him/her, you no longer have to figure out how and what to do – you can use his experience and do it right away.
There are a lot of experienced people on the Selvery team. For example, at the start of the project, I had already worked in sales management for 20 years. Our Director of Development had spent the same amount of time working in marketing. Thanks to my investor, we got first-class developers and resources for the original CustDev. Although CustDev itself began much earlier: since 2017, we verified the Account-Based Sales methodology in a large European bank’s sales network. It was based on this long work that the product was formed. This is the second piece of advice: to come up with something, immerse yourself in the industry, work, learn the internal problems – then you will have an idea that will be bought like hotcakes.
We often see new projects popping up in the market. Almost every day, new startups are created, and almost every day, just as many projects are shut down. All because Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well. Too often, startups try to polish their product as much as possible, to make it perfect, to conquer the world in one fell swoop. Until recently, the main approach in IT was to create “version 0.1.” Nowadays, this approach has survived perhaps only in game development. The MVP concept has replaced it. We also decided to do MVP instead of “the first version of the product,” which allowed us to form hypotheses for development in parallel with the development, continue to analyze the market, reduce costs and risks. In general, another piece of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to dive in headfirst, don’t wait for the perfect product stage, create an MVP and improve it together with the market players.
Real innovation, for which it is worth launching a business, always solves existing problems. And this is another piece of advice I have for newbies: before you start something, prove that the future product will solve an existing systematic problem. Find Product/Marketing Fit.
Networking is a part of business processes that cannot be ignored, especially in corporate sales. Gather your contact base now. As you grow in your field, your new acquaintances are going through new stages of their careers, too. Who knows what positions they’ll occupy in a few years? Speak out where you can get your way: online and offline. Talk about yourself to the professional community, find opportunities to get listener feedback. Share really useful stuff and offer to send additional material after your talks. Carefully save all the addresses you receive, build your list for future mailings. This approach will help you find new clients faster than promoting through advertising.
And, perhaps, the last advice to beginning entrepreneurs, though it will sound corny: do not be afraid to go all the way and risk everything, because only leaving your comfort zone can activate all your internal resources.
Disclaimer: The information in the above story is provided by the startup and The Strategy Story takes no responsibility for the authenticity of the product and services offered by the startup. Reader’s discretion is advised.
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